October 29, 2020

God’s Sovereignty in Lutheranism: An Interview With Josh Strodtbeck (4- Election and Salvation)

luther1.jpgGood to know some reader thinks that after 7 years of basically reformed-leaning blogging, 4 Lutheran posts qualify as somehow unfair treatment of Calvinism. And the main complaint: “cheap shots.” If you could die from irony, we could really thin out the population on the blogosphere.

When Josh is teaching, there’s a lot to learn. Enjoy the post and keep it on topic in the comments please.

4. How would a Lutheran answer the question, “How can I know I am saved?” and where would election come into the picture?

I think by this point, people know what I’d say. I’d answer by saying, “Listen to what God says to you in the Word, and believe in what he gives you in the Sacraments.” Obviously, most Christians aren’t taught to believe that the minister has any kind of divinely established mandate to forgive sins, and they mostly look at the sacraments as impositions of obligation, memorials, or divine ordinances you obey in order to testify of your own faith. We believe that God is the one testifying in the sacraments, and he’s testifying to you and to the world that your sins have been nailed to the Cross.

That’s not too far off from Reformed “signs and seals” language, but their language is tempered with limited atonement and/or conditional covenants so that there’s some kind of disconnect between between the sacraments and an objective, divine declaration of absolution and righteousness. So the signs are only “effectual” for the elect, or their promise is contingent upon good covenant standing, or something. I’ve been trying to grasp Reformed theology on this point for several years now, and I’ll just say I can’t articulate the difference well enough to satisfy any Reformed theologian, although it’s real. Their liturgical and pastoral practice makes that clear enough.

The big criticism from all the other traditions–Catholic, Reformed, Wesleyan, you name it–is that if God were to just go around recklessly forgiving sinners, if people were allowed to believe in their salvation just because Jesus got nailed to a cross, that would encourage people to sin more. The answer, of course, is putting a hedge around Jesus. Basically, you tell people they can’t have him unless they shape up. There are volumes and volumes of literature from all sides of Christianity about the conditions placed on forgiveness. Living up to covenants, doing penance, detaching your soul from sin, committing your life fully to obedience, and so on. We absolutely do not believe in that sort of thing. Jesus didn’t put covenant conditions on the paralytic before forgiving him. He didn’t tell the thief on the cross to shape up. He just absolved them. Just don’t call God a liar.

There’s an old legend in Catholicism about “Dismas,” the thief on the cross. I read it in some Catholic newspaper around Christmas time. Anyway, while the Holy Family was fleeing to Egypt, they were waylaid by bandits. The bandits were just going to take their stuff and slaughter them all, but one of them saw the cute little baby, had mercy on them, and persuaded the bandits to let them go. Because of his compassion, the Blessed Virgin prayed for him for the next thirty-plus years, so that by a combination of the nascent virtue of the thief and the intercession of the Virgin, he partly merited, and she partly merited for him the privilege of dying next to Christ and having the ability to repent and ask Jesus to remember him. The moral of the story was that if you try to be nice and ask the Virgin to pray for you, God might give you a break later on. Unlike other myths about the Virgin, this one isn’t dogma, but I think it’s illustrative of the human conscience. God can’t just forgive people without it being earned. That’s too good to be true, so it isn’t. Most people are probably thinking about what a bunch of rubes Catholics are for having made up such a silly myth to explain away forgiveness, but myths do for Catholics what clever theological explanations do for Protestants. They put that necessary hedge around the Cross so that it’s not too offensive.

Right, so where’s election come into assurance? I think you learn to be confident of your election as you learn to be confident that what God says to you in the Gospel and the Sacraments is true, and that he is indeed saying those things to you. God speaks, and you say “Amen.” I believe I’m elect, because God’s called me through the Gospel. When I hear Luke, that paralytic is me. So when Jesus says “Man, your sins are forgiven,” he’s not just saying it to the paralytic in the story, but to me and everyone else who sees himself lying helpless on that mat. So I believe in my own election, and I’m not afraid to say that.

There’s always the big question mark about apostasy. No matter what you believe about election, that one can keep you up at night. Christians who were just as good as you have fallen away, so why shouldn’t you fall away, too? I think the answer lies in the fact that God’s promises don’t come out of the sky; they’re made in the Church, because that’s where his Word is spoken. My answer to that question isn’t to try and find a logical resolution or some quality that differentiates me from them; it’s to go to church. Christians are elect because Christ is elect, and so if I decide I don’t want to be where Christ is because I think church is stupid or I’d rather live a life of flagrant sin, I’m counting myself out by my own unbelief. I know most people want a logical answer, but I just don’t have one. Keep going to church and believe what God says to you there if you want your troubles about apostasy to bother you less. That’s why it’s absolutely essential to go to a church where the Gospel is preached and the sacraments are administered according to Christ’s institution and not let unfaithful pastors stay in power. You’re killing yourself if you just go somewhere where all the pastor does is rappel down from the ceiling after a rockin’ tune by the praise band and then babbles about how to realize God’s purpose in your life.

I suppose I’m going to get accused of Arminianism or irrationality or something. Frankly, I think I can deal with that. God’s accused and absolved me of worse.

Stay tuned for more….


  1. “Or you could read the same Apostle testifying that baptism washed his sins away (Acts 22:16) and teaching us that we rise with Christ because we’ve been baptized into His death (Romans 6:3-5, Colossians 2:12).”

    If I said that then I would be saying there are more than one way of salvation. One way is to believe the gospel and trust in the death burial and resurrection of Jesus for my Justification, and then there is also the dump water on your kids head way. The baptism that washes away sin is the supernatural baptism of the Spirit which happens when a person believes.

  2. Why do you have to “rise” (get up) if the Baptism being referred to is the supernatural baptism of the Spirit and not the washing of the water and the word?

  3. Greg:

    Here is a video explaining how Lutherans understand Baptism and Salvation:


  4. Josh-

    I feel some sadness over our brief exchange and I realize it’s because I don’t think you’ve heard me. You’ve talked past me with some doctrinally correct pat answer each time, but never actually address my point.

    Correct theology without the resulting action in the world is as dead as “faith without works.” You can get all the sacraments right and hold the proper view of justification, but if it doesn’t motivate the minister or the church body to get beyond itself it’s “no earthly good.” (Though it might be “eternally” good.)

    A church that is weak on teaching but gets the “praxis” right isn’t any more in error than a church that gets the doctrine right and is weak on getting their hands dirty. And ironically, it’s the churches strongest on trying to get the beliefs right that tend to be not only the most introverted, but also the most disdainful of churches they consider “soft.”

    In 30 years as a Christian, I’ve found many churches trying hard to get the beliefs right (and then defending their beliefs from other Christian beliefs) and I’ve found many churches who take their less well-defined beliefs and put them to work. One church is intellectually challenging, the other challenges our self-centerness and sin more directly. I’m not saying one is “better.” I am saying they are both incomplete. And I am saying the disdain (and judging) ought to stop.

    Thank you for hearing me.

  5. Eric Phillips says


    There is just one way of salvation. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Christ Himself is the way of salvation. Those who are members of Him share His righteousness and His eternal life. Those who are not suffer death and Hell because of their own unrighteousness. Christ is the way, and Christ is the door, and BAPTISM is what puts us into Christ, through that door, onto that way. I’ve already offered a few verses that talk about being “baptized into Christ.” Here’s another one: “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). To be wearing Christ is to be saved, to be (as the hymn puts it) “dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne.”

    Paul and Barnabas told the Philippian jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (a), and thou shalt be saved (b).” Maybe you consider this a proof against what I am saying, but what happened next? The jailer believed (part a), and they baptized him (part b). If you doubt that exegesis, I invite you to look earlier in the book of Acts, and see what answer Peter gave on the first occasion this question was posed to one of the Apostles:

    2:37) Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38) Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    You say this baptism is a baptism of Spirit, not of water. Well, it clearly IS a baptism of Spirit. The Church has always taught that. Peter taught it in the passage I just quoted: If you are baptized, you receive the Holy Spirit as a gift. All throughout the book of Acts, we see these two things linked: Baptism and the Holy Spirit. The link is so consistent that God can communicate to Peter (and through him, to the rest of the Church) that yes, the Gentiles SHOULD be baptized, by reversing the usual order of things and giving Cornelius the Holy Spirit _before_ the water. Once he saw that, Peter had no choice but to baptize them (Acts 10:44-48, 11:15-18). Your error lies not in asserting that this is a baptism of the Spirit, but in denying that it is also a baptism of water.

    I’m sure the textual support you would allege for this denial is Matthew 3:11 and Acts 1:5, which distinguish between baptism by water and baptism by the Holy Ghost. But please note, these verses are not distinguishing only between water and the Holy Spirit, but also—and much more significantly—between the baptism of JOHN and the baptism of Christ. The difference between those two, as you should know from the fact that the Church has baptized with water from the days of the Apostles right down to the present, is NOT that John used water and Jesus uses the Holy Spirit INSTEAD, but that John used water ONLY, while Jesus uses water AND the Holy Spirit. “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).

    You can see that this is true by looking again at Acts 2:38. If the Holy Spirit is the only medium of baptism, how can Peter tell these men, in the imperative, to “be baptized”? What is he telling them to do? Go home and get down the jar of Holy Spirit and wash with it? And when the 3000 who believed that day were baptized, do you think it was done without water? If you are right in your beliefs, exactly how negligent was St. Peter to offer the crowd baptism (which is by definition a washing with water) for the remission of sins, and then to actually wash them with WATER immediately after they repented, without explaining to them, “Now look, guys. This water doesn’t actually have anything to do with the remission of sins. It’s merely post-hoc symbolism. The actual remission was already granted to you by the Holy Spirit, the moment you believed.”

    But check out Acts 19 if you want the clearest argument against your assumption that water pays no part in “baptism with the Holy Ghost.” In the beginning of that chapter, Paul runs into a group of people who are disciples of John the Baptist:

    2) He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. 3) And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. 4) Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. 5) When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6) And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.

    It’s that contrast again, exactly the same distinction that John the Baptist made between his baptism and the baptism of the one who would come after him (Matt. 3:11), and that Christ repeated in Acts 1:5—NOT a distinction simply between water and the Spirit, but between John’s baptism, which WAS only a symbol of repentance, and Christ’s baptism, which GIVES THE HOLY SPIRIT. And despite the fact that these disciples of John had already been baptized once, in order to receive the Holy Spirit they had to be baptized again, in the name of the Lord Jesus. The baptism that gives the Holy Spirit IS ALSO baptism by water. In fact, the problems this passage gives to your position are even more severe than that, because it is explicitly stated that the Holy Spirit doesn’t come upon them until AFTER they have been baptized. So if the Holy Spirit Himself is the only medium of this kind of baptism, and water can’t save us, how on earth could these men have been baptized BEFORE the medium of baptism had been applied to them?

  6. Eric:
    Those are dry verses; all, but your arguments are all wet.

    Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. You seem to be arguing for baptismal regeneration. Put aside the problem that baptismal regeneration poses when some children who are baptized grow up to hate God. If you want to argue; (as most paedo-Baptists do) that Baptism and Circumcision are parallel then it might be a good idea to familiarize yourself with Paul’s argument in Rom 4:. He points out that Abraham was justified by faith, years before he was circumcised. There appears to be around 25 years between the two events. To say nothing of the thief who Jesus declared would be with him in paradise without being baptized. Over and over and over Paul emphasizes Faith in Christ’s righteousness as the sole basis of our justification. Baptism is obligatory for believers, but takes place subsequent to justification as an act of obedience and a public declaration of a changed heart. Notice how Paul shows the real circumcision is not the outward one of the Flesh but the inward one of the Spirit. Unlike circumcision which was an outward sing of an inward need; Baptism is an outward sign of something that has already taken place in the heart through faith.

    Phil 3:2 Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. 3For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
    If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.
    7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

  7. Carrie:

    Lutherans are operating on a completely different paradigm. As a former “evangelical” (in the American, non-denominational sense), I can tell you that the Lutheran difference is not in just a few different beliefs about Baptism, Communion, etc. It is a completely different way of viewing things.

    In reference to your comments about “works” and “doing things”, one way to begin to understand this different paradigm is to understand the Lutheran doctrine of Vocation. Vocation “grants an individual a particular standing and position in relation to others within a community. Moreover, it defines how one meaningfully participates in and contributes to the life of the community. In other words, our vocation tells us who we are within our social structures of life and what kind of duties we are to be about for the welfare of the community. These features of life make demands on us to live lives of faith and faithfulness. We must trust our standing to live securely as a member and our faith is expressed, in part, by faithfully being about the tasks that are associated with our peculiar station in the community.” (Hein)

    Here are two short articles:

    Luther on Vocatio: Ordinary Life for Ordinary Saints

    Locus and Focus: God’s Will for Your Daily Life

    A great book on this issue is Dr. Gene Veith’s God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life.

    Veith states: “It is odd that such a liberating, life-enhancing doctrine has become all but forgotten in our time, passed over in our seminaries, sermons, and Bible classes. But the doctrine of vocation makes up an important part of the spiritual heritage that contemporary Christians have, unfortunately, cut themselves off from and are in such great need of recovering. It is more than an understanding of work, more than the slogan that we should do all things for the glory of God, more than a vague theological platitude.

    … the doctrine of vocation amounts to a comprehensive doctrine of the Christian life, having to do with faith and sanctification, grace and good works. It is key to Christian ethics. It shows how Christians can influence their culture. It transfigures ordinary, everyday life with the presence of God.”

    Carrie, understanding Vocation changes your entire paradigm and way of looking at the question of “what should I be doing for God.”

    Here is the link to his book:

  8. Carrie, if you’re talking about “theological correctness” in terms of rigorously developing and vigorously promoting some abstract system of human ideas, I’m with you. It’s not worth a hill of beans. But if you’re talking about actually preaching the Gospel, the one once delivered to all the saints, then there’s simply no substitute. The Gospel itself creates faith and motivates to love. Telling people how to find their purpose in life or manage their time better just isn’t the Gospel. It’s not that it makes a church “soft” or isn’t intellectually satisfying enough. It’s that it simply is not the Gospel and thus saves no one. If the Gospel is not being preached, the work of the church is not being done. Period. If the Gospel isn’t being preached, everything stops there.

    I agree that commitment to the Gospel can turn into loveless commitment to abstract, intellectual correctness. But then it’s not commitment to the Gospel anymore, so the answer is not throwing out the Gospel and replacing it with self-help messages and vigorously engaging in community outreach. The answer is repentance from your pride and returning to the Gospel once again.

    Those are dry verses; all, but your arguments are all wet.


  9. “Seriously”

    Whether salvation is by faith alone or by faith plus Baptism is a very serious issue.

  10. Greg:

    Where does faith come from?

  11. Faith; indeed all of salvation is a gracious gift of God. (Eph 2:8-9) Specifically; apart from works like circumcision or baptism. If Baptism follows faith how do Children believe something they have never heard; and why is it that not all children who receive the gift of salvation through baptism go on to manifest a life of faith?

  12. Greg:

    1. You ask, “If Baptism follows faith how do Children believe something they have never heard?”

    2. You ask, “Why is it that not all children who receive the gift of salvation through baptism go on to manifest a life of faith?”

    In order to better understand what you believe, I need to ask you a few more questions:

    1. Are you saying that infants, babies and children CAN NOT believe?

    2. If faith is a “gracious gift of God” (as you say), are you saying that God does not give this gracious gift to infants, babies and children?

    3. Are you saying God will not, cannot or chooses not?

    4. If it is a “gift”, why must one be an adult (or some “age of accountability”) to receive the “gift”?

    5. Are you saying that infants, babies and children are not sinful and do not need Salvation?

    6. If infants, babies and children die before they are adults (or some age of accountability), do they go to Heaven? Hell?

    4. Are you saying that all adults who receive the gift of faith “go on to manifest a life of faith”? If not, why not?


  13. “Are you saying that infants, babies and children CAN NOT believe?”

    Don’t they have to first have some content to believe? Rom 10:14 “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”

    Scripture is clear. The normative and prescribed method for belief is to hear and understand a clear proclamation of the Gospel. Infants as far as I understand are incapable of understanding spoken language.

    “2. If faith is a “gracious gift of God” (as you say), are you saying that God does not give this gracious gift to infants, babies and children?”3. Are you saying God will not, cannot or chooses not?

    God can do whatever he wants to but that is not what you find in scripture.

    4. If it is a “gift”, why must one be an adult (or some “age of accountability”) to receive the “gift”?

    I have said nothing about an age of accountability. Scripture says we need to hear and understand the Gospel to be saved.

    5. Are you saying that infants, babies and children are not sinful and do not need Salvation?


    6. If infants, babies and children die before they are adults (or some age of accountability), do they go to Heaven? Hell?

    I have no way of saying because Scripture is virtually silent on the issue. I have an opinion but it is just that.

    4. Are you saying that all adults who receive the gift of faith “go on to manifest a life of faith”? If not, why not?”

    Yes, but note carefully, how you posed the question. Not all who “say” LORD LORD, but according to John 6: all who are given to Jesus by the Father will come to Him and He will raise them up the last day. The number of those who are drawn is equal to the number raised because it depends on God’s ability not ours.

    I hope this helps you to stop avoiding the issues and answer a few questions yourself.

  14. The big difference between many on many of these questions on one side or the other side and even the Gospel is seeing it as pure gift versus not a gift. Everybody kind of agrees when grossly asked “is the Gospel a pure gift sans works” ANY good protestant will parrot quickly, “faith alone”, or something similar. Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist…you name it. But then trouble sets in after that. I’ll tackle a few just to show this. And I’ll stick with three, Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian. And I have no intention of defending a “denomination”, I have no such allegiance for the sake of allegiance. Having come from atheism one is afforded a bit more ability to not “side”, having been so far out from the truth, about as far as you can get. For me, the Law hit so strongly, it’s always been “where is the merciful God” and is it in Scripture. The problem with the later is ANYBODY can bend the word of God to their paradigm – it’s an odd reality.

    E.g. 1 Baptism: It can be seen in for example Colossians 2:11-13. In short and nutshell. A Baptist sees there a complete divorce between baptism and the work of the Spirit. The effect of which is some other looking to “see their conversion”. It then fits the paradigm of “who” gets baptized. So one must look for “fruits of conversion or proofs” so that the “timing of baptism” is gotten right. These “fruits” vary from person to person and church to church depending upon the local cult. Baptism then becomes no longer point to Christ but me. If I don’t get the order right, conversion first that has faith as seen by some tangible measure, then my baptism wasn’t right or real and so I get “re” baptized when I’ve confirmed this per above again. But as you see Christ is gone from all this and I become center stage. The Christian walk becomes some form, again depending upon the local cult, of moralistic transformation. Baptism is purely subjective, dependant upon the recipients faith to exist, that is “be a real baptism” and not upon the objective Christ or the name of God. In a sense a Baptist congregation at any given time cannot be assured that what they are viewing, if consistent with their doctrine, is a baptism at all. It’s a deeper issue than just infants because the question for an adult is if the adult was baptized and then turns from the faith later was there a real valid baptism? Even if the same person later comes to faith and is “re” baptized or “baptized for the first time for real now” according to the paradigm; was the earlier baptism real at all and is this one real. Basing it always on the subjective completely empties it of anything for real faith. It always begs the question of that prior baptismal ceremony, what was it? Baptism is not based objectively upon God’s name here being really given. Then what was evoked in an apostates baptism? Is this a violation of the third commandment, evoking vainly God’s name? The Baptist fundamentally sees here a divorce between water baptism and spirit baptism and thus the former becomes a mere work of man. Consequently, typically, the “unforgivable sin” is viewed as some form of unforgivable sin if it’s understood at all. Faith is somewhat viewed as something that must be “mustered up” and heaven, via baptism does not come down entirely to the receiver but the receiver in some sense “reaches up” to “get baptism”. If Satan attacks a believer about this all he merely has to do is: 1. Cast doubt on his/her baptism being valid. This he does by; 2. Attaching ALL the proofs the poor believer had as to having faith before he/she was baptized. This unleashes the believer from the gift of God FOR his/her faith, baptism. The devil has them because they “have to get the timing right” and this is “gotten right” by “must needs be having faith BEFORE baptism” and this is detected by “fruits”. The devil then sets the poor believer into motion of suddenly not looking to Christ but working. This takes the form of aisle walking over and over, repraying the prayer yet again, moral restoration. The believer is turned in upon themselves in the extreme over time and does not recognize that ALL of this is pure unbelief and the inward turning even if it is of the form of GREAT moral improvement is more sin and running away from God. The devil has them on the run. The Baptist would never “pull out their baptism” and use it against the devil as a sword of the Spirit and say, “no I am baptized”. Rather the devil has violently grabbed their baptism like a mugger grabbing a victims hand gun and has now turned it on them. The devil has then made true baptism (Gospel) a law to chase the believer away from Christ.

    A Lutheran sees there that baptism is baptism regardless of the receiver’s status. There is no real divorce or attempt to ferret this out. Baptism is purely God’s work and the giving of God’s name to which it is pure gift top to bottom. If an infant or adult later apostacizes from the faith it makes no difference as to the baptism, its still real and truly a given baptism, the real giving of the name of God. The apostate merely rejects the gift and is thus all the more damned. Baptism is purely God’s work and not man’s, its pure Gospel witness is maintained. They don’t “fly into heaven” and attempt to ferret out the difference. Baptism purely comes ALL the way down to the receiver, the receiver reaches up zero. If a believer is confronted by the devil about “their lack of fruits” or sin struggles the Lutheran merely strikes with the sword of the spirit in baptism and says, “No Satan, I am baptized and if I am baptized I have the promise and ASSURANCE of both body and soul that I am and will be saved and HAVE eternal life”. The Lutheran here is not cast upon the couch of the iron maiden of self when they’ve sinned. Strong sins does not unlatch this Lutheran from baptism where Satan gains a foot hold to drive to works, in fact baptism is used against him. Because baptism is rooted and based upon the name and promise of God and NOT the condition of the receiver yea or nea.

    A Reformed person. My experience is “it depends”. If they are “Baptist leaning” then they can fall into the Baptist paradigm just retaining infant baptism and Satan attacks them similarly, but sans rebaptism in their paradigm it doesn’t work as effectively for the devil. IF they are “Lutheran leaning” then they find the same strength. The reformed pull out more the covenant aspect between physical and Spirit baptism. But generally see it as a gift like the Lutherans, an objective gift. If someone rejects it later in life they too see it as a rejection of Gospel and gift and that one, if they don’t turn, is all the more damned. The reformed tend to put this rejection more in the covenant paradigm as opposed to the Lutherans. And as such there is emphasis here that baptism is the greatest gift and pure Gospel but to reject it is to despise it and despise the covenant of Grace, Gospel and thus all the more be damned by it. Those who have heard and received the good gifts of the Spirit, tasted of the age to come, if they reject it their hell will be more severe because they received. Reformed make a split between the thing signified and the real thing but yet there is still a union it not a complete divorce as in the Baptist thinking, but yet it’s not a complete amalgamation of the two.
    AS to seeking out “what about infants who die…”. Here we must look to Christ for our answer. Anytime we are posed with a question that finds no explicit answer in Scripture we must look at the revealed God, Christ crucified and risen. As Calvin said we must look to Christ and Him crucified, any knowledge of God apart from this, even if it is sought in the Bible, leads surely to an idol. Yet we will call it “God”, even “the God of the bible. Luther put it stronger I think; that you must look at the revealed God whether it be about infants, predestination or election (am I). If you loose the revealed God, Christ and Him crucified FOR YOU, then you loose the hidden God. As Jesus said, “anyone who has seen ME has seen the Father”. “NO ONE has seen the Father except Him Whom He sent” and a plethora of texts not to mention, “You search the Scriptures and think that by them you have life, but it are these that continually bear witness to ME (Jesus and what HE DID FOR YOU, the REVEALED GOD). Loose the revealed God and you loose the hidden God and you will hone an idol about God concerning the unborn and your predestination and election. That’s how EASY idolatry starts and it often starts from one’s not seeing Christ in Scripture. God is not one who doesn’t punish sin as the Cross of Christ clearly reveals. NOR is God like Moloch as the Cross of Christ clearly reveals. Based on this I easily believe without doubt that God has mercy on unborn infants who die, on children and mentally handicapped who cannot ascend to faith as we regular minded adults do. One is saved through the means of faith but not BY faith. In fact Jesus said explicitly that “the kingdom of God belongs to these” and that unless adults become as these they cannot even see the kingdom nor enter it. The Cross shows both the great wrath and the even greater mercy. There is where we answer these non explicitly revealed temptations of the flesh and devil to hone an idol for ourselves and fly into to heaven on our towers of Babel trying to reach up to God but really fleeing from Him, ironically trying to seek God, so we think.



  15. The problem it seems to me is that we are using “free gift” in different ways I am saying SALVATION is a free gift that is given apart from works (including Baptism) and that true apostasy is impossible. The entire process from being chosen before the foundation of the world to our ultimate glorification with Christ at the resurrection, is the sovereign work of the the Triune God. (Eph 2:, Rom 8:, John 6:, )

  16. Greg:

    You say, “The normative and prescribed method for belief is to hear and understand a clear proclamation of the Gospel. Infants as far as I understand are incapable of understanding spoken language.”

    So, you are saying that, ultimately, Salvation depends on us? If we have to HEAR and UNDERSTAND a CLEAR proclamation of the Gospel, you are saying three things:

    1. We must HEAR (or I would suppose read) the Gospel
    2. We must UNDERSTAND the Gospel
    3. The Gospel must be CLEARLY proclaimed by someone.

    #1 and #2 make Salvation dependent on us. #3 makes Salvation dependent on someone clearly proclaiming the Gospel (which again puts the focus on people).

    Your view is man-focused and man-centered. What kind of gift is this? A gift that is only good if you can hear or read it? A gift that is only good if you can understand it? A gift that has to be clearly explained before it is given?

    Salvation is entirely God’s work. We have no part in it. If we have to hear and understand it, then we have a part in Salvation. If a person has to CLEARLY proclaim the Gospel, then Salvation is (at least in part) dependent on people.

  17. Greg:

    “The normative and prescribed method for belief is to hear and understand a clear proclamation of the Gospel. Infants as far as I understand are incapable of understanding spoken language.”

    This sounds like an argument for some type of Arminianism or “decision-theology”.

    “The entire process from being chosen before the foundation of the world to our ultimate glorification with Christ at the resurrection, is the sovereign work of the the Triune God.

    This sounds like an argument for Calvinism.

    Are you saying that the “entire process” is a “sovereign work”, but man must “hear” and “understand” the Gospel and the Gospel must be “clearly” proclaimed by another person?

  18. Eric:
    I knew you had some ulterior motive for posing all those questions and yet I answered them anyway. You OTOH, still you have not seen fit to reciprocate.

    As to my position; it not mine and I clearly did not say “must”; now did I? I said It’s the normative and prescribed method found in Scripture; so you are accusing Paul of being “man-focused and man-centered” not me. Your failure to interact with the supporting Scriptures I posted make it rather obvious to me that you are looking to score some points for Lutheranism with little regard for what Scripture actually says, and that’s unfortunate.

    Further to your fallacious charges: The fallen condition of man is such that we will not “hear” or “understand” the gospel apart from the illumination of the Spirit. It’s like water off a ducks back. And yes; 1Cor 1: tells us that God has chosen the foolishness of preaching to accomplish this task which He has given to His Church, so you have a bone to pick with Him as well. Salvation then is God’s gift from start to Finnish.

  19. Greg:

    One final comment and then I think we can finish this discussion/debate and move onto future posts.

    Here is what I believe to be the issue in regards to Salvation and Baptism:

    1. God saves us. It is done solely by his action.
    2. Faith is totally from God. Faith is a gift given to us.
    3. God creates faith in people using his Word and Sacraments (Baptism and Lord’s Supper).
    4. God sustains faith in people using his Word and Sacraments.

    I understand Baptism to be the most Evangelical of doctrines. It shows that Salvation is all God. God reaches out to us. We do nothing. Baptism is pure Grace. It is completely an unearned gift.

    Infant Baptism demonstrates the unearned nature of Salvation.

    Infant Baptism demonstrates that Faith is completely a gift from God.

    Baptism clearly demonstrates that we do nothing, can do nothing – God creates and sustains our faith. He saves us. Pure Grace.

    Thanks for the discussion/debate and I look forward to reading more about what you believe in future posts.

  20. Greg, are we saved by faith alone or faith plus hearing the Gospel?

  21. It’s faith alone, that is trust. And NOTHING demonstrates raw faith like an infant. They are nothing but trusters.

    When I saw my first infant baptism the Gospel hit me so afresh and powerful, that infant just RECEIVING, it was just as Luther described his experience, the gates of heaven opened up. It came to me then and there all my trying to believe was unbelieving, just receive!!!

    Faith of the new man is in opposition to the ‘doing’ of the old man. The old man can’t even comprehend it at all, that’s why the old man never ‘gets it’, he’s an incurrable doer. Thus, infant baptism to our old man makes NO sense whatsoever. But to the new man, the naked truster, infant baptism makes perfect sense.

    In a nutshell.



  22. Erik this conversation was too one sided for my liking. You never bothered to answer any of my questions. You have no answers I assume.

    The biggest problem with your position is that it lacks biblical support.

  23. Greg:

    I have Biblical support and made it easily available to you. During this entire series I have linked for you both articles and a video (that is over an hour long) that addresses the Biblical support for infant Baptism.

    As I think you are aware, in the blog culture it is not appropriate to take up a lot of space with writing or quotes. What is appropriate etiquette is to link to larger articles or other resources that address issues in greater depth. This is simply out of respect to the host of the blog and the readers.

    If you have made up your mind that you are right and are not open to investigating another view, then endless debating and quoting Scripture is a waste of time (for all of us). If, however, you are open, then feel free to explore these resources.

    If you have resources that you want to link or recommend, please post them and, if I have not already read them, I will.

    You are obviously an intelligent person and very serious about your faith. I am more than willing for you to put me in touch with materials that you feel will help me better understand what you believe and why you believe it.

    On to future posts. Take care.

    In Christ,


  24. Josh S. what is the difference in the Reformed and LUtheran language on the Sacraments?

    I don’t have in mind the more legalistic reformed but those that hold the Gospel in the Sacraments for us given to us (e.g. Michael Horton).

    Sometimes it seems so close between the two. Without a doubt I hold to the Gospel in them, its why I’m no longer a baptist or memorial view person, I NEED the merciful God myself and have had more than my share of the devil preaching damnation to my soul in the past. The relief, Gospel, I saw in infant baptism is forever a treasured Gospel, that’s why no argument could take me back, I see Christ there in baptism for me. The Lord’s Supper between the Reformed and Lutheran is difficult for me, I admit it.

    Larry KY

    PS: You won’t hurt my feelings discussing this issue, truly, the merciful God is what many of us seek, regardless. It’s one of the things I love about Michaels’ web site and discussions (as opposed to some reformed and baptist blogs I’ve been around), I think, and I cannot speak for him, he seeks this way too and doesn’t have the thin skin you find in most defending their “denomination” as opposed to “where is God savingly truly for me”.

    Anyway, thanks much in advance!

  25. Eric said: “If you have made up your mind that you are right and are not open to investigating another view, then endless debating and quoting Scripture is a waste of time (for all of us).”

    I watched your hour long presentation and to be honest; I found it to be a very surface level, Sunday school type presentation. There was a minimum of scriptural support and a lot of appeal to “we’ve (almost) always done it this way” and “how can 75 percent of Christians be wrong?”, a smattering of OT texts and very few of the promised NT references.

    You are the one who seems to have made up your mind and does not want to answer some of the tougher issues that your view naturally raises. That’s fine; but don’t try and turn this around and make it look like you have done something besides run away from answering legitimate questions. Like if Infant Baptism actually imparts saving faith to the infant and they are as a result “raised with Christ” (as your youtube teacher and yourself assert, that Rom 6: refers to infant baptism): how then do so many of these same infants grow up to be God haters? In my view I can easily point to the fact that some people who are Baptized on the basis of a false confession and then fall away never were true believers in the first place. 1John 2:19 “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.”

    Pretty hard to square that with your position. Anyway; you don’t seem the least bit interested in answering any questions, so I’ll just leave it at that and move on myself.


  26. That’s good, because I am not donating any more server space to the endless Baptism debate.

  27. Patrick Kyle says


    Mike Horton and the WHI Reformed guys have been greatly influenced by Lutheranism, so their views on the sacraments is not representative of mainstream Reformed doctrine. Horton has been accused on occasion of being a “crypto Lutheran”

    You speak as though believer’s only Baptism has a spotless record in producing committed Christians who never lapse into unbelief or never darken the door of a church again. If the truth was told I’m sure the ‘retention’ rate of believer’s only Baptism is only marginally better than infant Baptism.

  28. Greg:

    Ok. God Bless.

  29. “Greg, You speak as though believer’s only Baptism has a spotless record in producing committed Christians who never lapse into unbelief or never darken the door of a church again. If the truth was told I’m sure the ‘retention’ rate of believer’s only Baptism is only marginally better than infant Baptism.”

    I specifically raised the issue myself and answered it with 1stJohn 2:19 in my last post, so your statement is not true. Many Baptists have pointed out the same problems with manipulating unregenerate people into being Baptized in order to pad Church stats but that’s a completely different issue than the one I am addressing. The issue is that Lutheran theology says that Baptism “actually does something” the actual thing it does apparently is to impart a saving faith to the individual and they make a big deal how this shows salvation is “All Grace, All God, All the time!”. OK, so then I ask who’s fault is it if they grow up to hate God? The Lutheran position seems to indicate that God is incapable of “completing the good work He started” (Phil 1:) in the baptized infants. Any body else see a problem here?

  30. Greg: Stop the baptism debate on my blog. If I am not making myself clear, just say so.

    Eric said “OK” and “God bless.” That mean’s you get to graciously say the same thing and move on, not stir things back up.

    I posted your last post, but I won’t do it again.

    Say something about me sympathizing with infant baptizers and I’m banning you.

  31. >Greg:

    >Ok. God Bless.

    OK Eric, I’m threatening you with banning if you are this civil again. Watch your step.

  32. Patrick,

    I have no problem with that. In fact I’d rather listen to Luther than any other post apostolic teacher given a choice. Was he perfect, no, but he gave Christ rather than covered him up. And as far as modern teachers go, I’d listen to ANYONE of the WHI guys over you or other “reformed” guys of our time. In fact I would entrust my entire family under them before you and your likes without a second blush. I pursue the merciful God because that’s what I need. I don’t pursue the “baptist” god or the “presbyterian” god or the “reformed” god, or some other “denominational” god. I need the God of the Cross for me and he called me by the Cross of Christ a long long long time before I even encountered you. I profess the Cross is my theology, if that makes me a “crypto-lutheran”, then so be it, I wear it with honor, in fact I boast in it. I do not let the opinions of men sway me, nor the pressures of men, nor do I even care the LEAST, truly, how you feel about it – you didn’t bleed on the Cross for me.

    Good day sir,