There is something healthy about returning to one’s roots. When it comes to evangelical Christianity, its roots are found in the soil of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation.

We Believe the Bible and You Do Not

Collapse
X
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • We Believe the Bible and You Do Not

    Keith Mathison

    Not too long ago, in an effort to get a better grasp of the Lutheran doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, I was reading the chapters on the sacraments in Francis Pieper’s Christian Dogmatics, and I ran across this statement: “The difference between the Lutheran Church and the Reformed in the doctrine of Baptism is fully and adequately defined by saying that the former believes God’s Word regarding Baptism, the latter not” (vol. 3, p. 269).

    Let that one sink in for just a moment. Here we have one of the most respected Lutheran systematic theologians of the last century saying that the difference between his church and the Reformed over baptism can be summed up as follows: “Lutherans believe the Bible, and the Reformed don’t.” It’s just that simple, right?

    When I first read this, I was a bit taken aback. How could a theologian as brilliant as Pieper so casually ignore the role of interpretation on this point? Why could he not see that this is not a matter of disbelieving the Bible, but of disagreeing with the Lutheran interpretation of the Bible?

    I recalled, however, that this kind of statement in regard to the sacraments goes back to the sixteenth-century debates between the Lutherans and the Reformed. In his debates with the Lutheran Joachim Westphal, John Calvin was almost driven to distraction by Westphal’s repeated claim that Jesus’ words “This is my body” allowed of no interpretation. One either believed them or one disbelieved them. In the historical context of the Lutheran-Reformed debates, then, Pieper’s statement is not terribly unusual.

    If you are Reformed or Baptist, what is your immediate reaction to Pieper’s statement? Do you accept his claim that the only difference between you and the Lutherans on the subject of baptism is that Lutherans believe the Bible and you don’t? Or do you think that his statement is a poor excuse for an argument? Do you think it is a fair statement, or do you think it is somewhat self-serving?

    Lest I be accused of picking on my Lutheran brothers, ask yourself this question now: “How many times have I seen my theological heroes use essentially the same kind of argument in different theological disputes?”

    I don’t know about you, but as I reflect on it, I can recall numerous times when I’ve seen this “argument” in action in my own theological circles. When I was a dispensationalist, the common thought was that the difference between premillennialists and everyone else was fully and adequately defined by saying that premillennialists believed God’s Word regarding the millennium while amillennialists and postmillennialists did not. We believed what God said in Revelation 20. Amillennialists and postmillennialists did not believe what God said. Case closed.

    When I was a Baptist, I regularly heard it said that Baptists believed God’s Word concerning believer’s baptism while others did not. As a Presbyterian, I’ve heard it said that Presbyterians believe God’s Word concerning the promises to the children of believers while the Baptists do not.

    I’ve heard this line of argument used in disputes involving the Sabbath, the days of Genesis, theonomy, the gifts of the Spirit, church government, you name it. In every dispute over the meaning of some biblical text or theological point, it seems that someone eventually throws out some version of the line: “The simple fact of the matter is that we believe what God clearly says here and you don’t.” When both sides in a given debate do it, the result is particularly edifying.

    Re-read the Lutheran quote in the first paragraph. Do you (assuming you are not Lutheran) find it persuasive when it is said of you that the only reason you do not accept the Lutheran understanding of baptism is because you do not believe God’s Word? Probably not. But we find that same kind of statement very assuring (and persuasive) when it is said in support of a doctrine or interpretation that we happen to agree with.

    The problem with Pieper’s statement is that he does not allow for any conceptual distinction between the infallible and inerrant Word of God and his own fallible and potentially errant interpretation of that Word. Thus, to disagree with his interpretation is to disagree with God. But this is obviously false. Presbyterians and Baptists do not reject the Lutheran doctrine of baptism because they disbelieve God’s Word. They reject it because they think Lutherans have misinterpreted God’s Word.

    The fact of the matter is that people who believe equally in the authority and inerrancy of Scripture sometimes disagree in their interpretation of some parts of that Scripture. We know God’s Word is not wrong, but we might be. God is infallible; we are not. We are not free from sin and ignorance yet. We still see through a glass darkly. In hermeneutical and theological disputes, we need to make an exegetical case, and we need to examine the case of those who disagree with us. It proves nothing to make the bare assertion: “We believe the Bible and you don’t.”

  • #2
    [FONT=trebuchet ms][SIZE=16px]Interpretation is a slippery word that can be used to hide all manner of unbelief; by it some contend that Christ is not God and others by it contend that the resurrection of our Lord is a metaphor. Beware of interpretations that step by step take one away from the plain sense of the holy scripture. One must always allow the plain sense to govern in matters of doctrine and even when one grants the other senses of holy scripture the simple and plain meaning of the text comes first. So when one reads the words of the Lord to Nicodemus as "really meaning" that one must be born of amniotic fluid and then at a later time of the Spirit alarm bells must ring because what the Lord said is "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" and no sign of amniotic fluid is present. The passage is not a metaphor nor is it to be taken as the humorously foolish interpretation that Nicodemus put on it "How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?[/SIZE][/FONT][FONT=trebuchet ms][SIZE=16px]" but let the words mean what they say and the teaching of the ancient churches leaps out of the page - one must be born of water and the Spirit (baptised and born from above) to enter the kingdom of God.[/SIZE][/FONT]
    Comment>

    • #3
      Yet the theif on the cross died without water baptism...
      Comment>

      • #4
        Originally posted by Stratcat View Post
        Yet the theif on the cross died without water baptism...
        [FONT=trebuchet ms][SIZE=16px]Yes, he did die without being baptised yet he had the word of the Lord Jesus Christ that he would be with the Lord in paradise that selfsame day. The promises of God are reliable. I believe that the thief was born from above by the Spirit and that had he had the opportunity he would have been baptised. God does not condemn for a failure of a duty that one cannot perform and the thief absolutely could not perform the duty of being baptised so I am inclined to think that the thief's expressed trust in the Lord was enough because the Lord said it was so.[/SIZE][/FONT]
        Comment>

        • #5
          Originally posted by peppermint View Post
          but let the words mean what they say and the teaching of the ancient churches leaps out of the page - one must be born of water and the Spirit (baptised and born from above) to enter the kingdom of God.
          To clarify, are you suggesting that any saint before John the Baptist did not receive salvation? If we take the phrase, "water and spirit" as a figure of speech, water and spirit are two words employed to get the point across, but only one idea is intended. One of the words, "Spirit," expresses the point, but the other word, "water," intensifies "Spirit" to the superlative degree.

          Consider E.W. Bullinger:

          It is God's Holy Spirit that is the instrument of both the cleansing and the birth of the divine nature in us. "Water" intensifies and magnifies "Spirit" by means of the many figurative ways God's Holy Spirit is shown working: as a means of God's light- and life-giving Word, of spiritual power, and of cleansing.

          Jesus says in John 6:63, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life." This statement clarifies matters: The water, the Word, and the Holy Spirit must be considered together—as one element—that precipitate the new birth, all being given from above. Considering them as one makes Jesus' declaration stronger.
          Further, I have requested from time to time, for those following John's baptism to please explain his baptism, especially considering John the Baptist's words which indicate having no idea as to why he was even baptizing Jesus.

          Please do not respond here if you wish to discuss John's baptism, perhaps another thread? In this thread, I believe the OP addresses an assertion, "We believe the Bible and you don’t" - how should we respond to such assertion?

          God bless,
          William
          Comment>

          • #6
            [FONT=trebuchet ms][SIZE=16px]Baptism is a sacrament of the new covenant so it cannot be made to apply to those who lived under the old covenant. So answering your question, William, I am not suggesting that anybody under the old covenant needed to be baptised to enter the kingdom of God.[/SIZE][/FONT]
            Comment>

            • #7
              Originally posted by peppermint View Post
              [FONT=trebuchet ms][SIZE=16px]Baptism is a sacrament of the new covenant so it cannot be made to apply to those who lived under the old covenant. So answering your question, William, I am not suggesting that anybody under the old covenant needed to be baptised to enter the kingdom of God.[/SIZE][/FONT]
              Ever acknowledge similarities and differences between the Catholic practice of baptismal regeneration and the Baptist practice of credo-baptism?

              Again, this is dealing with the assertion "We believe the Bible and you don’t" - how should we respond to such assertion?

              God bless,
              William

              Comment>

              • #8
                [FONT=trebuchet ms, helvetica, sans-serif][SIZE=16px]One ought to respond to the claim according to its merit. It is true? Then affirm it. Its it in error? Then show where it is in error. The Lutheran theologian says "We [Lutherans] believe that bible and you [Reformed] do not" since he is discussing baptism it is evident that he intends that on the matter of baptism as an efficacious sacrament of the new covenant that not only signifies an inner grace but also conveys that grace Lutherans believe the bible while he asserts that the Reformed do not believe the bible presumably because in Reformed theology baptism is a sign and seal of an inner grace but does not in and of itself convey that grace and hence does not actually wash away sins and cause the one baptised to be born from above by the Spirit. I am not a Lutheran myself so I will not attempt to defend his claims beyond their congruence with Catholic teaching on the matter of the sacrament of Baptism. Catholics teach these things about Baptism:[/SIZE][/FONT]
                [SIZE=16px][FONT=Times New Roman]THE SACRAMENT OF BAPTISM[/FONT][/SIZE]

                [FONT=trebuchet ms][SIZE=16px]252. What names are given to the first sacrament of initiation?
                1213-1216
                1276-1277
                This sacrament is primarily called Baptism because of the central rite with which it is celebrated. To baptize means to “immerse” in water. The one who is baptized is immersed into the death of Christ and rises with him as a “new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This sacrament is also called the “bath of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5); and it is called “enlightenment” because the baptized becomes “a son of light” (Ephesians5:8).
                253. How is Baptism prefigured in the Old Covenant?
                1217-1222
                In the Old Covenant Baptism was pre-figured in various ways: water, seen as source of life and of death; in the Ark of Noah, which saved by means of water; in the passing through the Red Sea, which liberated Israel from Egyptian slavery; in the crossing of the Jordan River,that brought Israel into the promised land which is the image of eternal life.
                254. Who brought to fulfillment those prefigurations?
                1223-1224
                All the Old Covenant prefigurations find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. At the beginning of his public life Jesus had himself baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan. On the cross, blood and water, signs of Baptism and the Eucharist, flowed from his pierced side. After his Resurrection he gave to his apostles this mission: “Go forth and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew28:19).
                255. Starting when and to whom has the Church administered Baptism?
                1226-1228
                From the day of Pentecost, the Church has administered Baptism to anyone who believes in Jesus Christ.
                256. In what does the essential rite of Baptism consist?
                1229-1245
                1278
                The essential rite of this sacrament consists in immersing the candidate in water or pouring water over his or her head while invoking the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
                257. Who can receive Baptism?
                1246-1252
                Every person not yet baptized is able to receive Baptism.
                258. Why does the Church baptize infants?
                1250
                The Church baptizes infants because they are born with original sin. They need to be freed from the power of the Evil One and brought into that realm of freedom which belongs to the children of God.
                259. What is required of one who is to be baptized?
                1253-1255
                Everyone who is to be baptized is required to make a profession of faith. This is done personally in the case of an adult or by the parents and by the Church in the case of infants. Also the godfather or the godmother and the whole ecclesial community share the responsibility for baptismal preparation (catechumenate) as well as for the development and safeguarding of the faith and grace given at baptism.
                260. Who can baptize?
                1256
                1284
                The ordinary ministers of Baptism are the bishop and the priest. In the Latin Church the deacon also can baptize. In case of necessity any person can baptize provided he has the intention of doing what the Church does. This is done by pouring water on the head of the candidate while saying the Trinitarian formula for Baptism: “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.
                261. Is Baptism necessary for salvation?
                1257
                Baptism is necessary for salvation for all those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament.
                262. Is it possible to be saved without Baptism?
                1258-1261
                1281-1283
                Since Christ died for the salvation of all, those can be saved without Baptism who die for the faith (Baptism of blood). Catechumens and all those who, even without knowing Christ and the Church, still (under the impulse of grace) sincerely seek God and strive to do his will can also be saved without Baptism (Baptism of desire). The Church in her liturgy entrusts children who die without Baptism to the mercy of God.
                263. What are the effects of Baptism?
                1262-1274
                1279-1280
                Baptism takes away original sin, all personal sins and all punishment due to sin. It makes the baptized person a participant in the divine life of the Trinity through sanctifying grace, the grace of justification which incorporates one into Christ and into his Church. It gives one a share in the priesthood of Christ and provides the basis for communion with all Christians. It bestows the theological virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. A baptized person belongs forever to Christ. He is marked with the indelible seal of Christ (character).
                264. What is the meaning of the Christian name received at Baptism?
                2156-2159
                2167
                The name is important because God knows each of us by name, that is, in our uniqueness as persons. In Baptism a Christian receives his or her own name in the Church. It should preferably be the name of a saint who might offer the baptized a model of sanctity and an assurance of his or her intercession before God.[/SIZE][/FONT]
                Last edited by peppermint; 06-25-2015, 11:46 AM.
                Comment>

                • #9
                  "The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread...."
                  "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread..."

                  Either you believe it's bread, or you don't believe the Bible. It says Jesus took BREAD! Right?

                  The people who pride themselves in taking the Bible literally don't take the Bible any more literally than I do, they just use the literal argument as an excuse to take the least literal parts literally.

                  When Jesus said this bread is his body, you can't take that any more literally than believing Jesus was holding bread that represented his body. The alternative that Jesus was holding his body and it only looked like bread is no more literal, but a lot less reasonable.
                  Comment>

                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Cornelius View Post
                    "The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread...."
                    "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread..."

                    Either you believe it's bread, or you don't believe the Bible. It says Jesus took BREAD! Right?

                    The people who pride themselves in taking the Bible literally don't take the Bible any more literally than I do, they just use the literal argument as an excuse to take the least literal parts literally.

                    When Jesus said this bread his his body, you can't take that any more literally than believing Jesus was holding bread that represented his body. The alternative that Jesus was holding his body and it only looked like bread is no more literal, but a lot less reasonable.
                    [SIZE=16px][FONT=trebuchet ms]I believe that at the last supper it is bread until the Lord says "this is my body" at that time it is his body. In the liturgy it is bread until the Spirit of God changes it as the words of consecration are said "this is my body ... this is the blood of the new testament shed for many for the forgiveness of sins" at that time the Spirit of God works the change that the words speak and like the word spoken at creation that made all things this word, spoken in the liturgy, also makes something new, namely, a creation (the bread) is changed into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ. But this is a digression from the topic of baptism and it is baptism that this thread is about if I am not mistaken.[/FONT][/SIZE]
                    Comment>

                    • #11
                      Reformed Theology acknowledges a monergistic reality of salvation. The initial step towards salvation begins by God alone, and not by material means, whether by man (flesh gives birth to flesh) or by cleansing the flesh by water alone. The water corresponds to a sign and seal from which salvation is not found, but rather the reality it corresponds, emphasizing monergism. The point of origination is not by any earthly means or by man's works but by God alone.

                      Soli Deo Gloria

                      God bless,
                      William
                      Comment>

                      • #12
                        [FONT=trebuchet ms, helvetica, sans-serif][SIZE=16px]Not by material means? I do not think that is a scriptural position especially in light of what saint Paul teaches about baptism in Romans chapter six.[/SIZE][/FONT]
                        [FONT=trebuchet ms, helvetica, sans-serif][SIZE=16px]
                        Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptised into Jesus Christ were baptised into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. (Romans 6:3-9 KJV)
                        [/SIZE][/FONT]
                        [FONT=trebuchet ms][SIZE=16px]Baptism really does do the things that saint Paul says it does. One really does die to sin and one really is raised to walk in newness of life. And all of this is wholly by the grace of God. [/SIZE][/FONT]
                        Last edited by peppermint; 06-25-2015, 12:21 PM.
                        Comment>

                        • #13
                          Originally posted by peppermint View Post
                          Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptised into Jesus Christ were baptised into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. (Romans 6:3-9 KJV)
                          Are you suggesting semi-pelagianism soteriology is represented in these passages? If we were to cross "raised from the dead" out and replace it with "healed from a sick or wounded condition" I'd see the similarity. Likewise, Catholic baptism equates the priest to a medicine man administering some special water to a sick or wounded man.

                          Again, water and spirit are a phrase and figure of speech used throughout Scripture, the emphasis is not placed on water alone nor does the water conjure up the Spirit.

                          Reformed Theology tends to eradicate superstition. Question, do you throw eye of newt in the water?

                          God bless,
                          William
                          Comment>

                          • #14
                            [SIZE=16px][FONT=trebuchet ms]In Catholic teaching the emphasis is not on water alone; it is water and the Word (a name for Christ and also for the Truth spoken by God) that constitute the sacrament and it is the Spirit who makes it efficacious.[/FONT][/SIZE]
                            Comment>

                            • #15
                              Originally posted by peppermint View Post
                              [SIZE=16px][FONT=trebuchet ms]In Catholic teaching the emphasis is not on water alone; it is water and the Word (a name for Christ and also for the Truth spoken by God) that constitute the sacrament and it is the Spirit who makes it efficacious.[/FONT][/SIZE]
                              Don't forget the one performing it.

                              God bless,
                              William
                              Comment>
                              Working...
                              X
                              Articles - News - SiteMap