Thursday, August 11, 2011

When a Lutheran challenges Sola Fide

I'm finding more and more I should lower my standards with respect to Lutherans, since I keep encountering sad surprises on the way they treat the Gospel at anything more than a superficial level. Poke the sacred baptism cow and all sorts of unpleasantries ooze out.

Eric said:

So we have an a priori assumption that any word, whether from God or from man, that grants any kind of salvific effectiveness to Baptism would bring us inescapably, and of necessity to a salvation by faith plus works. And it is this assumption that gives you license to do these strange things to the text. I will grant that you believe you are drawing this assumption from other parts of God's Word, and I would be willing to walk with you through these other verses one at a time to explore that question and see if they do indeed support your presupposition. Can you tell me something about where this article of faith comes from?
So, let me get this straight. You think it's an a priori assumption that we're saved by grace alone by faith alone. 
The massive "Um, what?!!??!" of that aside, it's hardly an assumption. It's sort of all over the Bible. It's a conclusion.

As for asking about the origin of this article of faith, are you being serious?
Fine, I am willing to debate you on this resolution:
Resolved: The sinner is made right with a holy God by God's grace alone through faith alone.
I'll take the affirmative and you can have the negative.

I'll begin with:
Ephesians 2:8-10 - 8For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9*******not as a result of works*******, so that no one may boast. 10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

So, we see here that salvation is NOT BY WORKS. 
Question: Are we saved by works?  
Answer: Not by works.


Romans 11:4-6 - 4But what is the divine response to him? “I HAVE KEPT for Myself SEVEN THOUSAND MEN WHO HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL.” 5In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice. 6But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.

God's elective choice of a people for His own possession entails everything those people receive - regeneration, adoption, salvation, justification, glorification, sanctification.
Here God reminds us that it is NO LONGER ON THE BASIS OF WORKS. Otherwise, what? Grace is no longer grace.

I'll look fwd to seeing how you would like to argue that grace is no longer grace. Lutheranism sure is funny.

14 comments:

Andrew said...

Rho,
I do not know the whole context of your conversation; but I think you are being unfair. I'm sure you realize that Lutherans affirm salvation by grace alone, through faith alone. I am also sure you are aware that they see baptism as God's work and not ours. Since the bible, in saying we are saved by grace through faith and not of works, means only that we are not saved by our own works (for salvation is certainly on the basis of Christ's work)I believe you owe it to our Lutheran brothers and sisters (among whom I may possibly soon be numbered, in the interest of full disclosure) to critique their theology with that understanding in mind. I seriously doubt you would long tolerate a Roman Catholic arguing against sola scriptura in this way. I'm not angry or anything. I just thought I would share my thoughts.

Rhology said...

Yes, I certainly appreciate Lutherans' explicit affirmation of sola fide, but wouldn't you have to agree that the implicit affirmation here in Eric's statements is something else?
Simply defining a work as not-a-work doesn't make it so. Words mean things. And as I've said and not seen a rebuttal to, what's to stop anyone from saying "___ is not MY work, it's GOD'S work!" about ANY addition to the Gospel? Why couldn't the Judaisers have made that same argument against Paul's argument in Galatians?

I had given Lutherans the benefit of the doubt before I started finding out more about their theology. But what with a fews' dogged insistence on what amounts to Christological heresy (in their affirmation of consubstantiation, which is monophysite) and a few others' saying garbage like "Baptism is Gospel" and "baptism is necessary for salvation", I can't in good conscience just let that kind of stuff ride.

Can you?

Andrew said...

I'm still wrestling with it. I think I'm probably a Calvinist and yet the statement "baptism is gospel" doesn't bother me. Does it not, in the baptist view, put the gospel into the form of a word picture? Maybe you wouldn't say it that way; but it seems that the symbolic view does just that. So what's your beef with it? I don't understand. Just to be clear I do see what seem to be serious problems with certain aspects of Lutheran theology; but I don't think they are heretics.

Rhology said...

"baptism is gospel" doesn't bother me.

Circumcision is Gospel.

Does that bother you?

Rhology said...

Does it not, in the baptist view, put the gospel into the form of a word picture?

If the word weren't "is", we could go somewhere.
Baptism represents Gospel.
Baptism pictures Gospel.
Baptism displays Gospel.
Baptism recapitulates Gospel.
Baptism symbolises Gospel.

All of those are fine. But only the Gospel is the Gospel.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"I'm finding more and more I should lower my standards with respect to Lutherans, since I keep encountering sad surprises on the way they treat the Gospel at anything more than a superficial level. Poke the sacred baptism cow and all sorts of unpleasantries ooze out."

The first two sentences made me chuckle out loud.

Andrew said...

Rhology, the gospel is the only thing that is the gospel. We agree. When the gospel is proclaimed via oration we hear what the preacher said and say things like "that is the gospel". But are the preachers words, strictly speaking, the gospel? No. Words aren't things in and of themselves. Words represent things. Same with baptism(or the supper). It "is" the gospel in the same way the picture in my wallet "is" my wife. I realize that Bridgette means something a little different; but all I am saying is that I have no problem with the phrase "baptism is gospel" in and of themselves. Does baptism save in the way Lutherans understand? I don't think so; but let's not throw the baby out with the bath-water. "Circumcision is gospel". I think your objection imputes a meaning to Bridgette that she would reject when she says "Baptism is gospel". I also think it betrays a resistance on your part to letting Lutherans define what they mean for themselves and on their own terms. Just to be clear, I disagree with them on baptism (but I am listening with interest); but it is on the ground that I dis-believe in universal atonement. I don't find their view on baptism to be a "scary holdover from Rome".
Thanks for the robust debate so far.

Rhology said...

And thank you for the debate as well. :-)

But are the preachers words, strictly speaking, the gospel? No. Words aren't things in and of themselves.

Sorta.
1) I'd be criticising someone if they said "words are the Gospel", like Brigitte had said: "Baptism is the Gospel".
2) The Gospel is a message that is proclaimed. this requires words.
3) By the same token as #2, it does not require baptism.


Words represent things.

Quite.
We wouldn't be having any conflict if Lutherans said "Baptism represents the Gospel".


"Circumcision is gospel". I think your objection imputes a meaning to Bridgette that she would reject when she says "Baptism is gospel".

Well, I suppose that's possible, but I sort of doubt it. Did you read the entirety of our interaction on that topic?
(Maybe you did; I'm just asking.)


a resistance on your part to letting Lutherans define what they mean for themselves and on their own terms.

To be fair, that may be true. As I've said, I'm no expert in Lutheran theology. It's just that, every time I encounter a Lutheran talking baptism, he sounds like a baptismal regenerationist. And I'm sorry, but I've not yet seen a good reason to think that this doesn't violate sola fide by good and necessary consequence, much like circumcisory regenerationism would.
Does that make sense?

Also, about the univ atonement thing... I should think that the univ/particular atonement debate is far inferior in scope and importance to the consistent sola fide vs INconsistent sola fide position. Do you disagree?

Andrew said...

Rho: Did you read the entirety of our interaction on that topic?

Me: Yes. It seemed to me (no offense to Bridgette if she's reading this) that Bridgette was having trouble explaining her position with the erudition, and precision that you maybe wanted. In my view she was being really unclear.
As an aside: Bridgette, if you are reading I am not saying that you are not smart or anything like that. Please don't read me that way.

Rho: 1.It's just that, every time I encounter a Lutheran talking baptism, he sounds like a baptismal regenerationist.
2.We wouldn't be having any conflict if Lutherans said "Baptism represents the Gospel".

Me: 1. That's because they are. Baptismal regeneration is a key cog in Lutheran theology.
2. Let's be careful that we Calvinists don't employ a double standard here. After all, Jesus didn't say "This represents my body". "Is" does posses a certain fluidity in meaning.

Rho: Also, about the univ atonement thing... I should think that the univ/particular atonement debate is far inferior in scope and importance to the consistent sola fide vs INconsistent sola fide position. Do you disagree?

Me: A solid, incontrovertible argument from scripture that sets universal atonement at naught would completely destroy ANY attempt to uphold both baptismal regeneration AND sola fide. In fact, the universal atonement issue is what will ultimately probably keep me out of Lutheranism. Why? Because their view of baptism is impossible without universal atonement. That was my point there.

Matthew C. Martellus said...

ANDREW SAID:

It "is" the gospel in the same way the picture in my wallet "is" my wife.

Let's be careful that we Calvinists don't employ a double standard here. After all, Jesus didn't say "This represents my body". "Is" does posses a certain fluidity in meaning.

The problem with this line of thought is that it fails to take into consideration the difference between the usage of deictic and non-deictic terms to refer to the object in question. Consider the following utterances:

A: This is my wife.
B: The picture in the wallet is my wife.

Utterance B is absurd, for the grammatical structure specifies an identity relation between the picture and one's wife. Since pictures are not people, this is absurd. No one who has any fluency in the English language uses utterances like B, for the simple reason that they communicate absurdities.

On the other hand, utterance A is different. The object that is identified with one's wife is not stated unambiguously in the utterance. Rather, the subject of the sentence is referenced using a deictic term, and as such, one would need to have access to the context of the utterance to properly understand it. In general, when one points at a picture and says "this is X," one is not specifying an identity relation between the picture and X. Rather, one is specifying an identity relation between X and the thing represented by the picture. This is how language works in regards to deictic reference with respect to visual representations. To state it formally:

"This is X" uttered in the context of pointing to a visual representation of Y is an assertion that X and Y are identical.

Thus, A and B do not mean the same thing, because of the nature of deictic references. Now, the utterance "Baptism is the Gospel" contains no deictic references. Grammatically, it asserts an identity relation between baptism and the Gospel, which is absurd.

Now, a visual representation need not be direct. A picture is a direct visual representation of some object, as the visual features in the picture correspond to the visual features of the object in question. However, certain visual forms can also be indirect representations of some object, inasmuch as the visual features of the representation do not correspond to the visual features of the object in question. The cross is an example of this. As displayed in churches, it represents the atoning work of Christ. Yet, the orthogonal placement of two lines (to form the shape of a cross) does not visually depict Christ's atoning work. Indeed, Christ is not even visually depicted on a cross, in and of itself! Thus, the cross is not a direct visual representation of Christ's atoning work, but an indirect, symbolic, visual representation. A pastor in a church can, in the course of the sermon, point to a cross in the sanctuary and say (per Eph. 2:16), "that is what reconciles us to God." The pastor does not mean that the physical cross in the sanctuary reconciles us, nor even that the wooden object upon which Christ was crucified reconciles us. Rather, he is using deictic reference to denote the referent of the symbol referenced deictically, in the same way as the man refers to his wife by pointing at a picture in his wallet.

Matthew C. Martellus said...

(continued)

Applying this to the Last Supper, Christ's assertions can easily be seen to be of this form. In saying "This is my body," Christ is making a deictic reference to the bread, as a symbol, representing His body, just as in saying "This is my wife," one is making a deictic reference to the picture, as a visual depiction, representing one's wife. Such an interpretation is perfectly consistent with how language works with respect to other deictic references with respect to visual representations.

Moreover, if we're going to nitpick about what the text does and does not say, reading Christ's assertions in a literal manner cannot support either transubstantiation or consubstantiation. When Christ said "This is my body," he was referring to a particular piece of bread. There is nothing in the text that says "Whatever bread you break when celebrating this ordinance, that is my body." Instead, it simply says "this is my body." If we're going to reject the symbolic view because the text does not explicitly state it, then to be consistent, we cannot accept transubstantiation or consubstantiation either, since there is nothing in the text that explicitly states that anything other than the actual piece of bread used during the Last Supper became/becomes Christ's body.

Rhology said...

1. That's because they are. Baptismal regeneration is a key cog in Lutheran theology.

So regeneration is by faith plus baptism.
That sounds suspiciously like faith plus something, since baptism is something.

I don't understand how this is unclear.


After all, Jesus didn't say "This represents my body". "Is" does posses a certain fluidity in meaning.

1) What MCM said.
2) Jesus never said "baptism is Gospel", either, so I don't really think this analogy holds.
Yes, "is", like any other word, has meaning depending on its context. What context are we in when we say "Baptism is Gospel"? I mean, we talked about it for 1000s of words, and she didn't back down from her heretical view.
I don't know where to classify someone who stubbornly holds to a heretical view like that, but I'm certainly not eager to join arms with someone who denies sola fide in that way.



Because their view of baptism is impossible without universal atonement. That was my point there.

OK, thanks for clarifying.
Another parallel presents itself here, and it has to do (again) with the "blessed inconsistency". It is impossible to read the Bible and come to a consistent univ atonement view. Yet many ppl do read the Bible, take it seriously, and hold to univ atonement. They are inconsistent in their hermeneutic in this one limited area.
Similarly, Lutherans hold to sola fide explicitly but deny it by the implicit conclusion of their bap regen view. Confess it, profess it, but dig down deep enough and you find they don't really mean it. However, how many of them ever connect the dots between the two?
I honestly don't know how they miss it, but maybe that's why there aren't too many serious Lutherans. The connection is much closer and more visible than the difficulties surrounding univ atonement.
But hey, if the more arcane doctrine keeps someone (like you) out of what I consider to be a very difficult, if not heterodox, if not heretical, view of soteriology, I praise God.

Coram Deo said...

Yeah Rho, I had to close my little Reformed shop at the Wittenburg Gate because the local Lutherite denizens all but ran me out of town.

In Christ,
CD

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Coram Deo,

Can you provide a link to what transpired?