Sunday, October 26, 2008

Reformation Sunday

We both forgot to wear red; looking around the 8:15 service I see many others did too. In the Cornerstone this week Pastor Eric Waters writes
    "Because we were the first of the Protestant churches, many of our fellow Protestants look on us with suspicion as being "too Catholic." They point to our practice of infant baptism, belief that the bread and wine of Communion really is the Body and Blood of Jesus, and the recitation of the Creed as proof that we're still stuck in the superstition of the Middle Ages. On the other hand, the Roman Catholic church looks on our longer sermons, various liturgies, and disagreement with the Pope as proof that we went too far. In short, most of our fellow Christians look on us as neither fish nor fowl: too Catholic for some, too Protestant for others."
My husband was baptized as an infant (Presbyterian), and I was about 12 (Church of the Brethren). If you ever want to see a Lutheran pastor go pale in your adult confirmation/transfer class, just ask to be re baptized. On the other hand, there are Protestant churches that would want to do mine over, because they wouldn't trust the minister or denomination who presided at mine. Lutherans and Catholics see infant baptism as done by God, not by man, so Lutheran pastors don't do that. I think Luther himself gave a good explanation, because he really had more problems with the reformers (in my opinion) who came after him (he called them dolts and blockheads) than the Catholics and Humanists. To the argument that you don't remember your baptism, he replies
    Were I to reject everything which I have not seen or heard, I would indeed not have much left, either of faith or love, either of spiritual or of temporal things
He asks the anabaptists. . . How do you know who your parents are. . .you don't remember your birth, so why should you honor your parents? Why should you obey the government if you haven't seen the leader. How do you know the apostles preached. If you can't believe anything you haven't seen, felt or experienced, says Luther, you're in the devil's pocket.

To the argument that you need to believe before baptism, Luther really works up steam
    For if they follow this principle they cannot venture to baptize before they are certain that the one to be baptized believes. How and when can they ever know that for certain? Have they now become gods so that they can discern the hearts of men and know whether or not they believe? . . . You say that he confesses that he believes. Dear sir, confession is neither here nor there. The text does not say, "He who confesses," but "He who believes."
And how many times would you be rebaptized asks Luther. Each time you have a fresh sense of your faith, or after each doubt is put down.
    So when next day the devil comes, his heart is filled with scruples and he says, Ah, now for the first time I feel I have the right faith, yesterday I don't think I truly believed. So I need to be baptized a third time, the second baptism not being of any avail. You think the devil can't do such things? You had better get to know him better. He can do worse than that, dear friend. He can go on and cast doubt on the third, and the fourth and so on incessantly. . . the end result? Baptizing without end. All this is nonsense. Neither the baptizer nor the baptized can base baptism on a certain faith. . .

    Since our baptizing has been thus from the beginning of Christianity and the custom as been to baptize children, and since no one can prove with good reasons that they do not have faith, we should not make changes and build on such weak arguments. . .

    When they say, "Children cannot believe," how can they be sure of that? Where is the Scripture by which they would prove it and on which would they build? They imagine this, I suppose, because children do not speak or have understanding. [goes on to tell the story of John and Jesus in their mothers wombs as an example that children can know and understand and believe]. . .What if all children in baptism not only were able to believe but believed as well as John in his mother's womb?
He gives another example from a betrothal and wedding where a girl marries reluctantly and without love then after 2 years, she loves her husband.
    Would then a second engagement be required, a second wedding be celebrated as if she had not previously been a wife, so that the earlier betrothal and wedding were in vain?. . .
Rebaptism is relying on works, says Luther. God's Word is unchanging even if the person doing the baptism does not have faith.
    The unchanging Word of God, once spoken in the first baptism, ever remains standing, so that afterwards they can come to faith in it, if they will, and the water with which they were baptized they can afterwards receive in faith, if they will. Even if they contradict the Word a hundred times, it still remains the Word spoken in the first baptism. Its power does not derive from the fact that it is repeated many times or is spoken anew, but from the fact that it was commanded once to be spoken.
You can read Martin Luther's Basic Theological Writings ed. by Timothy Lull on-line.

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