Monday, October 24, 2016

Baptismal Regeneration: The Papal Foot in Luther's Wittenberg Door

In the earliest days of the Reformation, Martin Luther based his stand on justification by faith alone. And with good reason, as history has show. it continues to be the point of confrontation between Evangelicals and the Church of Rome. However, on lesser doctrines, he struggled to break free from his own popish upbringing and training, particularly regarding the sacraments. While he properly jettisoned the additional but unbiblical Catholic sacraments, holding only to baptism and the Lord's Supper, he held essentially-popish views of those two.

In the Lord's Supper, Luther continued to hold to the corporeal Real Presence, that is, that Christ is literally and physically present in the bread and wine. Like Rome, Luther taught that the human nature of Christ was included in the ubiquity of His divine nature. The Reformed, however, reject such a view because it mixes the human and divine natures, as did the heretic Eutyches, contrary to the orthodox formulation of the Creed of Chalcedon, which said, in part, "acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved." Note that this is the official doctrine of both Lutherans and of Rome, yet they do not see a conflict between it and their sacramental view. I do, as have the Reformed through history. in fact, it was the issue at the colloquy of Marburg that led Luther to declare the Reformed worse than papists or heathen.

In baptism, Luther retained the popish doctrine of baptismal regeneration. That is, both held that baptism effectually applied the merits of Christ, such that the person was truly regenerated and joined with Christ. While Zwingli agreed, Calvin and the Reformed since him have rejected the doctrine as unscriptural.

As the Westminster Confession XXVII:3 says of both sacraments, "The grace which is exhibited in or by the sacraments, rightly used, is not conferred by any power in them..." And of baptism, XXVIII:6 says, "The efficacy of baptism... is not only offered but really exhibited and conferred by the Holy Ghost to such as the grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in His appointed time." Of the Lord's Supper, XXIX:5 says, "The outward elements in this sacrament... remain truly and only bread and wine, as they were before." Further, in section 7, it adds, "Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements in this sacrament, do then also, inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually, receive and feed upon Christ crucified, and all benefits of His death..." Thus, the Reformed view is spiritual. Whether the water of baptism or the bread and wine of the Supper, the benefits are received, not from the elements, but from Christ, received, not in the flesh, but in the spirit, not automatically or mechanically, but only by faith. Also, the Reformed view maintains the true humanity of Christ, instead of swallowing it up in a divine-human hybrid, who isn't truly either one.

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