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Saturday, November 17, 2007

On Baptism 4...

I want to start this off by expressing my respect for Anonymous. Most Baptists and other revivalist Evangelicals deny using the theology or descending from the theological heritage of others. As Anonymous is being honest with Anon’s theology, I in turn give Anonymous some credit. Anonymous has quoted a theologian Anon respects, and in turn, this pastor has mentioned those he claims his history from. Furthermore, Anonymous at a minimum acknowledges that tradition and history are important when considering theology. Most Baptists and revivalists are not this honest, and so my debate with Anonymous, though similar to that with members of my extended family, is on a higher intellectual level because Anonymous and I are not just debating scripture but what theological heritage is the proper theological heritage to cling to. I hope, at least, I am representing Anonymous’ case, in this manner. And I hope Anonymous is enjoying our debate as I am and that it stretches Anon’s faith as much as it is stretching mine.

Anonymous has, again, asked that I take a look at Infant Baptism, Its History and Its Harm by Dr. William Pettingill . This has been published, apparently in a prayer book, as such I take this as an acknowledgement that supplemental devotional work and supplemental theological work is of value to Anonymous.

As an introductory statement, for the reference of my other readers, Pettingill does not speak in the manner which we have grown accustomed to in current writing and sermons. He does not stick to a particular theological order nor does he site his outside resources. Furthermore, he talks about some things that he hopes his audience will find common knowledge, which I do not consider common knowledge. This is annoying at a minimum. So, if the following explanation seems disorderly, I am taking things in the same order as Pettingill. I am intentionally ignoring some points and not others, and most of the points I am not addressing have to do with my annoyance at Pettingill’s style which leads me to the inability to comprehend all of his points. I have attempted to site or clarify some aspects of Pettingill’s writing, and at times have asked Anonymous for help. If Anonymous wishes to continue an honest debate, I hope Anon will in the future provide citations where we are accustomed to citations in modern writing and perhaps also do some of the historical research. I hope such, as I do not feel I should have to do the work on something Anonymous is lending to our debate.

First off, I have a problem with the following statement: “I am convinced that believers should be baptized in water. If I were compelled to choose [Liz adds: between no water baptism and allowing for infant baptism], I would unhesitatingly say, ‘no water baptism’ rather than the baptism of infants.” Jesus says that baptism is an important part of discipleship, and yet, a minister of the word of God would put an end to baptism just because he disagrees with how most Christians administer it? This is a very bold and disturbing statement. This reeks of one who feels they have the right to take away from the very word of God, which is condemned in Revelations.

…infant baptism is responsible for sending more people to Hell then any other cause.” Again, this is a very bold and disturbing statement. First of all, what sends us to Hell other then sin? And furthermore, even if infant baptism is a sin, and I believe it not to be sin, placing strengths of preference on sin is condemned by the Bible. The wages of all sin is death. And no one sin is less bad then another.

Baptism is part of making disciples of all nations, as such, there is no objection to infant baptism in scripture. And furthermore, in instances when entire households were baptized, infants are therefore included as a member of a household. However, I also have an objection to, “The question here is the bringing of infants who are too young to come by themselves.” Pettingill teaches that people choose Jesus where Lutheran, and I believe the Bible, teach that God chooses us. There is a strong difference between the two theologies and this difference is really the key to our entire debate.

It [infant baptism] resulted from the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, the teaching that baptism is essential to salvation.” What makes things more clear then “Make disciples of all nations, BAPTISING them…” or “Repent and be baptized…” Baptism is necessary for salvation.
I am not sure what Pettingill is getting at when he says, “…and so baptism of unconscious infants came into vogue among many churches.” Anonymous, is he talking about stillborn infants or is he talking about infants in general?

It is reliably estimated that over fifty-million Christians were put to death during the ‘Dark Ages’ covering twelve or thirteen centuries [Liz adds: I am not informed enough about periods of the world to dispute the time frame of the Dark Ages, however I will assume that Pettingill actually means the twelfth and thirteenth centuries as this makes more sense with the numbers he is talking about], mainly because they rejected these two errors [Liz adds: infant baptism and baptismal regeneration] and insisted that salvation was the gift of God, apart from works or ceremonies.” First, I think these deaths can be also attributed to the Black Death , the 100 Years War, and also The Great Famine. I cannot, using my resources, find any other mass death during that era. I invite Anonymous to show otherwise, however, I will until then consider this point refuted.

Onto the re-baptizers. Again, as Pettingill did not provide the doctrines of the re-baptizers he quotes, I did a little research on the various sects mentioned among the re-baptizers. I tried to find them all, but was unable to do so. As such, I hope Anonymous will help the debate along by filling in holes his source leaves.

Below are four of the doctrines Pettingill holds up as standard bearers of Anabaptists.
Montanism: Montanus believed that he was the embodiment of the Holy Spirit, which is blaspheme. I recommend Anonymous shun any theological heritage from him.
Novatianism: Novatian had problems readmitting lapsed Christians back into fellowship. I can’t find anything else on his beliefs, and did not see anything about infant baptism.
Paulicans: The Paulicans believe that Christ was a created being and have similar beliefs to the Mormon theology that Christ earned God’s favor and then became God. I recommend Anonymous shun all theological heritage from the Paulicans.
The Waldensians: I don’t see anything about infant baptism in my brief search of their beliefs… perhaps Anonymous would enlighten me?

I do not dispute the Reformers did persecute Anabaptists.

I do not dispute Pettingill’s history on Church and State in America. I have to do more thinking on whether or not state organized religion is a help or hindrance to conversion to Christianity in Western States. I would perhaps hold that if we are also talking about Islamic States or totalitarian states, that indeed the union of religion and state is a hindrance. However, I am not sure of the strength of Pettingill’s argument.

I do not have an argument with the Lutheran Position as Pettingill stated here (though if another Lutheran has more insight, please feel free to comment):
"The Lutheran church teaches that baptism, whether of infants or adults, is a means of regeneration. Martin Luther himself, when asked whether unbaptized infants are lost, said: Not lack of contempt for, the sacrament condemns. I hope that when little children are denied baptism without their fault, and the command of Christ and prayer are not despised, the kind and merciful God will graciously remember them. Let their souls be left in the hands of and at the will of their Heavenly Father, who, as we know, is merciful."

However, I find Pettingill to be uncharitable here, “Mind he says only ‘I hope.’ Not a very good foundation for faith. Mr. Luther should have done better then that,” speaking of a man with higher education and superior intellect (as judging by the quality of writing), Pettingill is not stating his true objection, which I believe to be one must be absolutely certain about all aspects of doctrine before being a true Christian. Whereas Lutherans do not have a problem believing there are aspects of faith and doctrine we place our hope on, but believe we will not understand until Heaven.

Anonymous has provided a very weak theological argument refuting infant baptism. Pettingill, it seems, does not place importance on Baptism at all, as he would take it away rather then let an infant be baptized. Baptism was clearly important to Christ, his disciples, and also early Christians. Pettingill goes on to claim infant baptism is a sin and is the sin that damns more people to Hell then all other sins. Pettingill uses people who blaspheme to justify his claim as well as two people whose views on baptism are hard to come by. (I couldn’t find anything on others that Pettingill mentioned, or anything where I could discern the true beliefs of those mentioned. However, based on the four, I am satisfied that Pettingill’s argument is very weak.) Pettingill confuses those who died in human tragedies during the dark ages with those who died true martyrdom. And, the legitimate persecution of the Anabaptists throughout the Reformation does not a solid theology make. Furthermore, the involvement of the Anabaptists in the founding of America does not make a sound theology.

I am still content knowing my baby will be baptized into Christian faith as an infant.

7 Comments:

  • At 11:46 AM , Blogger Lawrence said...

    A little rough, but here goes:

    Lutherans do not teach that Baptism is a “get out of jail free card”. Luther taught that Baptism is a Means of Grace. Modern Evangelistic thought has the mistaken impression that Luther is teaching Baptism as a Means of Salvation, which is not at all what Luther meant.

    But to untwist this misunderstanding we have to look at the real problem. The problem is not with actual Lutheran doctrine, but with Modern Evangelistic misunderstanding of Salvation.

    Most of the people I read and or debate on Infant Baptism, (them being anti- me being pro-) is that they also embrace the idea that salvation is a choice where we must allow God into our lives rather than simply accepting that Christ/God has already made this choice for us.

    The problem is that Modern Evangelicals are under the mistaken impression that they do not actually receive salvation until they ask for it. So help me find a Bible passage where Jesus tells us that His blood sacrifice for us and resurrection (which has already occurred) had anything to do with a personal choice we made? The point is that trying to argue that Baptism is about us going to God is exactly backwards, because it is always about God coming to us.

    The Lutheran position is that salvation is not ours by choice, but by gift. We can choose to (and by sinful default do) reject salvation, but it doesn’t make sense that we must choose after the fact to accept a gift that has already have given to us by God.

    At no place in the Bible does Christ give us an age limit on when we must go to him or when He comes to us. What He does say is that He comes to us, period. What He also says regarding children is let them come to Me, and/or bring them to Me. In context of the Bible passages, Jesus is telling His disciples and parents to stop trying to protect Him from being bothered by the children.

    So, how better for parents to bring their children to Christ than through Baptism?

    In the end, we are all brought to Baptism in some manner by God. Whether the Holy Spirit works through our parents to bring us to Baptism or works through the Word to guide us in some other manner, it is the Holy Spirit that is the active part. (regardless of age.)

     
  • At 11:46 AM , Blogger Lawrence said...

    A little rough, but here goes:

    Lutherans do not teach that Baptism is a “get out of jail free card”. Luther taught that Baptism is a Means of Grace. Modern Evangelistic thought has the mistaken impression that Luther is teaching Baptism as a Means of Salvation, which is not at all what Luther meant.

    But to untwist this misunderstanding we have to look at the real problem. The problem is not with actual Lutheran doctrine, but with Modern Evangelistic misunderstanding of Salvation.

    Most of the people I read and or debate on Infant Baptism, (them being anti- me being pro-) is that they also embrace the idea that salvation is a choice where we must allow God into our lives rather than simply accepting that Christ/God has already made this choice for us.

    The problem is that Modern Evangelicals are under the mistaken impression that they do not actually receive salvation until they ask for it. So help me find a Bible passage where Jesus tells us that His blood sacrifice for us and resurrection (which has already occurred) had anything to do with a personal choice we made? The point is that trying to argue that Baptism is about us going to God is exactly backwards, because it is always about God coming to us.

    The Lutheran position is that salvation is not ours by choice, but by gift. We can choose to (and by sinful default do) reject salvation, but it doesn’t make sense that we must choose after the fact to accept a gift that has already have given to us by God.

    At no place in the Bible does Christ give us an age limit on when we must go to him or when He comes to us. What He does say is that He comes to us, period. What He also says regarding children is let them come to Me, and/or bring them to Me. In context of the Bible passages, Jesus is telling His disciples and parents to stop trying to protect Him from being bothered by the children.

    So, how better for parents to bring their children to Christ than through Baptism?

    In the end, we are all brought to Baptism in some manner by God. Whether the Holy Spirit works through our parents to bring us to Baptism or works through the Word to guide us in some other manner, it is the Holy Spirit that is the active part. (regardless of age.)

     
  • At 11:47 AM , Blogger Lawrence said...

    Oops... sorry for the double post.

     
  • At 11:57 AM , Blogger Liz said...

    No problem Lawrence! Always glad for more insight.

     
  • At 11:57 AM , Blogger Liz said...

    No problem Lawrence! Always glad for more insight.

     
  • At 4:54 PM , Anonymous Alden said...

    As you point out, the history of the Anabaptists is at best spotty, consisting of various groups with little connection to each other. Those appearing about 1522 in Luther's Germany appeared primarily to be revolutionaries (not the pacifists of the later years) who were some of the instigators behind the Peasant's Revolt, who placed "direct revelation" above scripture.

    Those coming a few years later were more focused on the baptism issue. Luther's criticism of them was similar to his criticism of the RC church: they added human works to the work of Christ, confusing man's righteousness toward man with the Righteousness of God that relates to salvation. As Paul pointed out in Galatians, once you do that you don't just water down the gospel, you lose it completely.

    And, as has been pointed out, Luther saw baptism along with salvation as a pure gift, not something that we add to the gift of salvation.

    Again, very nice discussion of the issues. I'm enjoying your blog very much.

     
  • At 8:15 PM , Blogger Liz said...

    Thanks for the added insight, Alden!

     

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