Thursday, October 28, 2004

More on Holy Baptism...

Please check out the interesting article on the miracle of holy baptism at Confessing Evangelical's blog.
 
Before joining our confessional lutheran church, I had struggled with the purpose of baptism for 20 years!  Since my own weak christian training didn't teach me that we are powerless to choose faith apart from the holy spirit and that Jesus commanded baptism of all people without mention of age, I hesitated to baptize my own children.   I rationalized that even though I was baptised, my own faith didn't mature until I was 20 years old.  My wish for mature faith for my children led me to the wrong conclusion that I should have my children wait for baptism until they made their own profession of faith.  Thankfully, I did not neglect teaching them God's word and soon I realized that they were Christians through the power of God's Word.  Then it became a game of "Well, when are they old enough to be baptized?".  Obviously, that method never gives an answer because children are still children and their faith will never seem mature for years to come.  At what point can any of us say about ourselves or our children that faith is now mature and the person is ready for baptism? 
 
In those twenty years (before and after having children) of church searching, NO pastor (ELCA, independent, Baptist, Evan. Free, Assemblies of God, Methodist, Covenant, CMA, LCMS) ever told me what the bible truly says about baptism.  In fact, pastors in each of these denominations told me to continue to wait until my children were ready, that baptism was merely symbolic.  I could go into more detail, but I don't wish to insult anyone.  During our bible information class with the pastor of our new church, I was overwhelmed with my enormous sense of guilt at keeping my children from holy baptism.  I even disregarded my husband's and parents' plea to baptize them.  I did repent of my sin and asked my husband's forgiveness, but I still can't believe how misguided I was.  My kids are baptized and I don't dwell on it at all.  I 'm just thank that my whole family is now getting a thorough christian education, as well as a complete worship experience and solid biblical teaching each Sunday.  Yet another reason I love my church!!!

Holy Baptism

Question:

There are other Scriptures pertaining to baptism . . . Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38 and others. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. How can infants or small children hear to understand the word of God? Little children are in essence very very gullible. If you tell them that the sky is orange they think the color of the sky is orange. The next minute if you tell them the sky is purple, they believe that also. There is a matter of "age of accountability." There aren't any scriptures to support any one in the New Testament baptizing infants or small children. Granted, children learn and excel at different rates, but how can an infant learn anything as important as they are sinful? How can an infant or small child sin to the point of needing remission of those sins? Things relating to God and the church are so extremely important and should not be altered (Revelation 22:18-19).

Answer:

Allow me to agree wholeheartedly with your very last point. All that God has related to us in the Scriptures is so precious to us that we dare not either add or subtract to it! It is his saving Word, inspired precisely as we have it from him, so that our souls are brought to Christ and nourished with Christ until we are reunited with Christ in glory forever. Why would we want to add or subtract from that?

But may I humbly suggest for your consideration that it may not be we who are adding to Scripture, but you are who are subtracting from it?

I don't know all the inner workings of the mind and understanding of infants. Even those who have devoted their lives to such study cannot give us conclusive answers to the mystery of the human mind and understanding. Do you fully understand that so well that you can tell me what God can or cannot do in the heart of an infant?

Repentance and faith are accomplished by the work of the Spirit through God's law and gospel. Faith, as it is clearly portrayed in Scripture, is 100% a gift of God so that the fact that we are "in Christ" is completely his choosing, not ours (John 15:16; Ephesians 2:8,9; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31). Why, then, cannot the Spirit work such gifts of repentance and faith in infant hearts through the message of Christ even though I cannot explain the exact "how" of it? Might the words of the Lord himself to Abraham fit here, "Is anything too hard for the LORD?" (Genesis 18:14)?

Or consider this, how can you fault us for baptizing people of all ages when our Lord Jesus, in giving us the gift of baptism, told us to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them . . ." (Matthew 28:19)? Is it we who take his words at face value that have some explaining to do? Those who have some explaining to do are those who would limit his words when he does not. Where in Scripture is there a clear command not to baptize infants when in instituting baptism Jesus speaks very broadly? Surely the burden of proof does not rest on those who do baptize infants -- but those who do not.

What is more, I can't find a single reference to an "age of accountability" in all of Scripture. I understand that there is such a thing in Scripture as an "age of discretion" when people come to fully understand their actions. But long before anyone reaches the "age of discretion" they are already accountable for the sinful state into which they were born. King David admits that he was a sinner accountable to God already when he was conceived, let alone from the time he was born (Psalm 51:5). The apostle Paul mentions in Ephesians 2:3 that "we were by nature objects of wrath." We don't become sinners suddenly when we gain discernment about our rebellion from God. We are born rebels who sin against our God long before we are aware that we are doing so. Sin remains sin whether I am conscious and aware of it or not. Why else would King David pray that God would forgive his "hidden faults" of which he was not even discerning (Psalm 19:12)? All of us were born as sinners and rebels against God (Romans 8:7) and are therefore "by nature objects of wrath." Tiny children have every bit as much a need for the forgiveness of Christ as any of us. Thank God his grace in Jesus is rich and free and is offered to all through the gospel in Word and sacraments!

Also, your comments about the gullibility of small children is certainly true, but that is merely a rational argument -- not a scriptural one. That argument does not prove that they are somehow therefore unfit to be brought to faith in their Lord Jesus Christ.

Allow me to finish with a summary. We believe that all people by nature are born sinful and are accountable for that before God from the first moment they exist. We believe a new birth through repentance and faith -- necessary for salvation -- is worked by the Holy Spirit through God's message of law and gospel. We believe that repentance and faith are not works which man accomplishes, but that which God works in our hearts by his power. God alone gets 100% of the credit lest sinful man find even the smallest reason to boast (or to fear that we have not done our little part correctly!). We believe that faith is worked through hearing the gospel of Christ, whether that is heard in the preached Word or in the "visible Word" of earthly element joined to the Word of God. We also believe that Jesus' command to baptize -- one way he reaches out with the saving grace of his gospel -- is so wide and broad that we recognize that anyone from all nations can receive baptism.

I will let God sort through the "how" of the exact way he accomplishes all this in the human heart -- young or old. He doesn't ask me to be able to "explain" or "understand" how all this can be. Since nothing is impossible with him, I can just rest secure in the power of his grace and mercy in the gospel. Unless a clear prohibition from Scripture can be produced, we will continue to take Jesus at his Word. May I be so bold as to urge you to do the same?

From the WELS Q & A site: Holy Baptism

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Theology of the Cross vs. Theology of Glory

My church's Wednesday study group focused tonight on the theology of the cross compared to the theology of glory. I took lots of notes and am working on a good post. The chart used by John H. of Confessing Evangelical was featured in the handout! It originally came from Don Matzat, I believe. Anyway, as I was scribbling notes and looking at the descriptions in the bible of people practicing the theology of glory, I started to wonder about Unitarians and their rejection of Jesus as God because God would just never lower himself to come to earth, become a lowly human and die for our sins. I need to re-read my grandfather's book, "Why I am a Unitarian". In that sad book, my grandfather (not the one who just died in the Lord, but my other one who died in 1988) had penciled in numerous comments about how God would never lower himself to come to earth as a human and die for us. I've kept that book turned around in my bookshelf for years. I really don't want my kids to find it, but I just can't throw it out. It stands as a testament to someone who, while baptized and raised as a Christian, came to doubt God's love. He died an awful, painful cancerous death as an old man and no one knows if he ever repented on his death bed. He was not at peace at all. He fought it to the bitter end, my father told me. That, ultimately, is where the theology of glory leads. Please don't post my comments about my grandfather on your blog...just let this stay here. It's too sad and personal, but definitely worth sharing.

Defending Close Communion

Here is an article on the practice of Close Communion by John H. of Confessing Evangelical.

Uniqueness of the Lutheran Reformation

I have recently found this article and am adding it to this site in hopes that it will be a resource for others. John H. of Confessing Evangelical is the author of the post.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Busy reading books...

I picked up two books last Wednesday night and have been busy reading them, rather than blogging and posting. What books am I reading? They are books that have been recommended to me by other confessional Lutherans.

Spirituality of the Cross by Gene Edward Veith.

Wow! I knew this book would be good, because it has been so consistently recommended by nearly every confessional Lutheran I talk to. But I didn't expect it to become my new favorite book. Up until now, my recommended "you've got to read it" book was The Defense Never Rests: A Lawyer's Quest for the Gospel by Craig A. Parton. It still is, but now I've got two books to recommend.

What I love about this book is that it is yet another good story of a faith journey that leads a Christian to Jessus and the cross. I am selfish and I love to hear that someone else had my same experience in finding a church. This is also a book that compels you to make a list of all the people you know who could relate to his story: new-agers, liberal Christians, etc. I've only read about 1/4 of the book, so this review is a work in progress. If you haven't yet read this book, join me! If you've already read it, please let me know what you thought. What other of Veith's books are "must reads"?

The other book I'm reading is Why I Am a Lutheran: Jesus at the Center by Daniel Preus. Not as a profound a read, but many good nuggets in this book. This book is going on my Christmas gift-giving list for a few family members.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Irresponsible voting advice to Christians

Looks like Mark Noll, professor of Christian thought at Wheaton College, didn't read Pastor Johnathan Micheel's article answering the question, href="http://www.stpetermodesto.org/slate/oct2004.pdf">Is God a Democrat or Republican? Mark Noll has announced to his fellow evangelical Christians that he will not vote for president in, Why I won't be voting for president.
As has been the case for the past few presidential elections, on Election Day I will almost certainly cast my vote once again for none of the above. Here is why:
Seven issues seem to me to be paramount at the national level: race, the value of life, taxes, trade, medicine, religious freedom and the international rule of law. In my mind, each of these issues has a strong moral dimension. My position on each is related to how I understand the traditional Christian faith that grounds my existence. Yet neither of the major parties is making a serious effort to consider this particular combination of concerns or even anything remotely resembling it.

Read on for details of his seven issues.


In his conclusion, he justifies his reasons for giving up on America. His God apparently is not very powerful and does not know what is going on in America.
I have arrived at these seven political convictions as a result of my Christian faith. Yet each can be advanced in terms of the public good without reliance on a particular faith. Of course, I may be mistaken either in what traditional Christianity should mean politically for an American citizen in the early 21st century or in how best to argue for these positions with reasoning not demanding a commitment to traditional Christianity. But as long as I hold these positions, I am a citizen without a political home.


Contrast Mark Noll's depressing victim mentality with the advice of confessional lutheran pastor Johnathan Micheel's admonition to Christians:

Is God a Democrat or a Republican? The question is flawed. It implies that God needs to figure out who the best candidate or party is and then give his support to one side or the other. But this is not the case. Rather, it’s our responsibility to listen to the Lord (through His written word), make sure we’re on his side, and then cast our vote.
But this is complicated. No candidate is perfect. No political party has a platform that perfectly conforms to the Word of God. So what can a person do?


Remember that God is above and beyond all political parties. Throughout the history of the
world he has used both the godly and the godless to do his work. No matter who is
elected, God will continue to work all things out for the good of his church. As we participate in our government by casting our votes, let’s remember that he is ultimately in control.


Thanks for Davie D. for alerting me to this article.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

This explains a lot!!!

I spent ten years in churches that were either Assemblies of God, valued many pentecostal practices or had influential former AoG congregants. I was very interested to read this list of similarities and differences between confessional lutheranism and pentecostalism. In light of my "conversion" to confessional lutheran practices, some of the differences brings back confusing or painful memories. How does a normal teenage girl from the 70's go from being Lutheran to baptist to pentecostal? It took me my own kids spirtual education that I realized how sadly under-educated in my own Christian faith I was when I entered adulthood. I rejoice that my own kids are, even now, more trained and will mostly likely make better choices than their mom.

The following is a WELS pastor's response to a question about the differences between the Assemblies of God church and confessional lutheran beliefs. In my own confessional lutheran church, the good points of any denomination are always emphasized and we are encouraged to view non-confessional lutherans as fellow christians. So, in true christian love, the Wisconsin Lutheran Synod (WELS)pastor begins his answer be emphasizing the areas we agree on.
The Assemblies of God are fundamentalists who believe in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Holy Scriptures. They confess the doctrine of the Trinity and the Deity of Christ along with his virgin birth, substitutionary work on the cross, his bodily resurrection from the dead and his exaltation to the right hand of God.
They teach that faith is a condition of salvation rather than teaching that faith is the way God has chosen for us to receive salvation. The implication is that an unconverted, sinful human being must "decide" for Christ. The Wisconsin Synod teaches that people by nature are dead in their transgressions and sin and therefore have no ability to decide of Christ (Ephesians 2:1, 5). We do not choose Christ, rather he chose us (John 15:16) We believe that human beings are purely passive in conversion.

They teach that baptism and Holy Communion are ordinances whereby Christians declare to the world that they have died with Christ and share in the divine nature. They do not believe that the sacraments are means of grace through which the Holy Spirit works to create or strengthen faith. They deny the Real Presence in the Lord's Supper. They insist that the only legitimate way to perform baptism is by immersion. That is undoubtedly why the congregation in your community goes down to the lake to baptize. The Wisconsin Synod teaches that baptism and the Lord's Supper are means of grace through which the Holy Spirit works to create or strengthen faith (Titus 3:4-7, John 3:5-6, 1 Peter 3:21, Matthew 26:26-28). We believe that Christ's true body and blood are truly present in the Lord's Supper (Matthew 26:26-28, 1 Corinthians 11:23-29). The Bible does not madate the mode of baptism. The water in baptism can be applied in the name of the Triune God by sprinkling, pouring, immersion or submersion.

The Assemblies of God are premillennialist. They believe that Christ will return and reign physically, visibly, and politcally for 1,000 years on earth. The Wisconsin Synod rejects the teaching that Jesus will return to establish a political reign here on earth (John 19:36, Romans 14:17, Colossians 1:13-14).

They are a perfectionist church body. According to the official web site of the Assemblies of God, they believe that "by the power of the Holy Ghost we are able to obey the command: 'Be ye holy, for I am holy.'" Holiness/perfectionist church bodies often seem to make rules where God hasn't and to call things sinful which God has not forbidden. The Wisconsin Synod teaches that although we will strive for Christian perfection, we will not attain it in this life (Romans 7:14-25, Philippians 3:12). We are careful not to call things sinful which God has not called sinful (1 Corinthians 10:23-33, Romans 14:1-23).

The Assemblies of God believe that every believer is entitled to "baptism in the Holy Spirit" (an experience separate from water baptism) with the inital evidence of speaking in tongues. They also practice faith healing. They teach that such "divine healing is an integral part of the gospel. Deliverance from sickness is provided for in the atonement, and is the privilege of all believers." The Wisconsin Synod does not teach a "baptism in the Holy Spirit" separate from and subsequent to water baptism. We do not see speaking in tongues and faith healing as normative for Christians today.

Is God a Democrat or Republican?

This is posted on both of my blogs today, Kiihnworld and Be Strong in the Grace. It is an example of why it is contrived and artificial to separate faith from politics.

I found this very interesting piece today. I think you will enjoy it. It certainly helped me to keep things in perspective. It was written by Pastor Johnathan Micheel of St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church in Modesto, CA.

Is God a Democrat or Republican?

People sometimes ask that question during an election year. There's Democrat, Republican, Reform, Green, Libertarian and all the rest. There's President Bush, Senator Kerry, Ralph Nader, plus all the candidates who don't get much press. And so, as we're bombarded with information about political parties and candidates, we might well wonder, "Whom would God vote for?" "Is God a Republican or Democrat?"
Read more...


Pastor Micheel ends with this advice:

1. Listen to the Lord. Learn some key issues involved in the elections and propositions. Find out if the Lord addresses any of those issues in the Bible. (Your pastors can help with this.)

2. Learn also this important fact:
there are issues about which God does not speak directly in the Bible; he lets us make decisions about these issues using our Christian freedom and our sanctified common sense.

3. Listen to the candidates and learn about the issues on the ballot. Go beyond TV sound bites and partisan ads and learn as much as you can about whom and what you’ll be voting for.

4. Well-informed and guided by God’s Word, cast your vote on November 2.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

What the ELS believes

The Bible says, "For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." For this reason, the member congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod confess the following points of Scriptural doctrine:

We believe that the only true God is the Triune God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God is One in three Persons.

We believe that God has revealed Himself to people not only in creation, and through our conscience, but especially through the Bible. The Scriptures alone offer and deliver to us the way of salvation.

We believe that both the Old and New Testaments, in their original form, were given by inspiration of God. The Holy Scriptures are without error. The Word of God is truth.

We believe that God created the world and all that is in it in six days.

We believe that Adam and Eve were created in the image of God, but lost that righteousness in the Fall-not only for themselves, but for all mankind.

We believe that, in order to rescue fallen mankind, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ into the world, clothed in human flesh, true God and true man in one Person. By the righteousness of Jesus and by His suffering and death and resurrection, the entire world has been redeemed.

We believe that the entire world was declared to be righteous in Christ when he rose from the dead. It is by faith alone that this righteousness of Christ becomes the personal possession of the sinner.

We believe that God has established certain means of grace by which he announces and gives the forgiveness of sins, and the sure hope of everlasting life. These means are the Gospel, as found in the Word of God, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper: These means of grace are God Himself in actions saving lost souls.

We believe that man's conversion to faith in Christ is solely and alone the work of God the Holy Spirit.

We believe that good works are necessary fruits of faith in the life of the Christian, but do not earn eternal life for the sinner.

We believe that there is one, holy, Christian Church on earth which consists of all who believe in Christ as their Savior. The church may be found wherever the Word of God and the Sacraments are being used properly.

We believe that only qualified men are to be ordained into the office of the public ministry. The work of this ministry is to preach the Gospel and administer the Sacraments.

We believe that all believers are ministers before God, having certain gifts which are to be used for the church. However, we also believe that God has given certain principles to guide us, and at times restrict us, in the use of our gifts.

We believe that on the Last Day, Christ will return to judge all people. All who have died will be raised. Those who believe will be with Him in heaven, while those who have rejected Him will be in hell.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Luther on faith and works : The Outward Man

Lo! my God, without merit on my part, of His pure and free mercy, has given to me, an unworthy, condemned, and contemptible creature all the riches of justification and salvation in Christ, so that I no longer am in want of anything, except of faith to believe that this is so. For such a Father, then, who has overwhelmed me with these inestimable riches of His, why should I not freely, cheerfully, and with my whole heart, and from voluntary zeal, do all that I know will be pleasing to Him and acceptable in His sight?

- Martin Luther


Thus a Christian, like Christ his Head, being full and in abundance through his faith, ought to be content with this form of God, obtained by faith; except that, as I have said, he ought to increase this faith till it be perfected. For this faith is his life, justification, and salvation, preserving his person itself and making it pleasing to God, and bestowing on him all that Christ has, as I have said above, and as Paul affirms: "The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God" (Gal. ii. 20). Though he is thus free from all works, yet he ought to empty himself of this liberty, take on him the form of a servant, be made in the likeness of men, be found in fashion as a man, serve, help, and in every way act towards his neighbour as he sees that God through Christ has acted and is acting towards him. All this he should do freely, and with regard to nothing but the good pleasure of God, and he should reason thus:--

"Lo! my God, without merit on my part, of His pure and free mercy, has given to me, an unworthy, condemned, and contemptible creature all the riches of justification and salvation in Christ, so that I no longer am in want of anything, except of faith to believe that this is so. For such a Father, then, who has overwhelmed me with these inestimable riches of His, why should I not freely, cheerfully, and with my whole heart, and from voluntary zeal, do all that I know will be pleasing to Him and acceptable in His sight? I will therefore give myself as a sort of Christ, to my neighbour, as Christ has given Himself to me; and will do nothing in this life except what I see will be needful, advantageous, and wholesome for my neighbour, since by faith I abound in all good things in Christ."

Thus from faith flow forth love and joy in the Lord, and from love a cheerful, willing, free spirit, disposed to serve our neighbour voluntarily, without taking any account of gratitude or ingratitude, praise or blame, gain or loss. Its object is not to lay men under obligations, nor does it distinguish between friends and enemies, or look to gratitude or ingratitude, but most freely and willingly spends itself and its goods, whether it loses them through ingratitude, or gains goodwill. For thus did its Father, distributing all things to all men abundantly and freely, making His sun to rise upon the just and the unjust. Thus, too, the child does and endures nothing except from the free joy with which it delights through Christ in God, the Giver of such great gifts.

Luther on faith and works: The Inner Man

One thing, and one alone, is necessary for life, justification, and Christian liberty; and that is the most holy word of God, the Gospel of Christ.
-Martin Luther



We first approach the subject of the inward man, that we may see by what means a man becomes justified, free, and a true Christian; that is, a spiritual, new, and inward man. It is certain that absolutely none among outward things, under whatever name they may be reckoned, has any influence in producing Christian righteousness or liberty, nor, on the other hand, unrighteousness or slavery. This can be shown by an easy argument.

What can it profit the soul that the body should be in good condition, free, and full of life; that it should eat, drink, and act according to its pleasure; when even the most impious slaves of every kind of vice are prosperous in these matters? Again, what harm can ill-health, bondage, hunger, thirst, or any other outward evil, do to the soul, when even the most pious of men and the freest in the purity of their conscience, are harassed by these things? Neither of these states of things has to do with the liberty or the slavery of the soul.

And so it will profit nothing that the body should be adorned with sacred vestments, or dwell in holy places, or be occupied in sacred offices, or pray, fast, and abstain from certain meats, or do whatever works can be done through the body and in the body. Something widely different will be necessary for the justification and liberty of the soul, since the things I have spoken of can be done by any impious person, and only hypocrites are produced by devotion to these things. On the other hand, it will not at all injure the soul that the body should be clothed in profane raiment, should dwell in profane places, should eat and drink in the ordinary fashion, should not pray aloud, and should leave undone all the things above mentioned, which may be done by hypocrites.

And, to cast everything aside, even speculation, meditations, and whatever things can be performed by the exertions of the soul itself, are of no profit. One thing, and one alone, is necessary for life, justification, and Christian liberty; and that is the most holy word of God, the Gospel of Christ, as He says, "I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in Me shall not die eternally" (John xi. 25), and also, "If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John viii. 36), and, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matt. iv. 4).

The Grace of Baptism

From Confessing Evangelical, John H. writes about the miracle of his son's upcoming baptism...

"Here's what will - God willing - be happening to Matthew on Sunday morning. As the water is poured onto him by Christ's minister declaring Christ's Words, Matthew will:

become a disciple of Jesus Christ;

be born again of water and the Spirit;

have his sins forgiven and washed away;

be baptized into Christ, into His death and resurrection;

become a new creation;

put on Christ;

be cleansed and sanctified by the washing of water with the word; and

be saved by the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

In a word, he will be saved. Quite a day!"

Related articles:

Baptism Thoughts

Doubting your baptism? By John H.

Believer's Baptism article by Pastor Joel Brandos and great dialogue in the replies

I am baptised. by John H.