"My heart I give Thee, Lord, eagerly and earnestly." - John Calvin
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,
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.
My name is Chris Cole. I have lived in the Charlotte, NC, area for over thirty years, and have been an active Presbyterian during most of that time. I love the Westminster Confession of Faith as a beautiful expression of my own personal beliefs.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I prefer the English Standard Version of the Bible, and all quotations are from the ESV, unless otherwise stated.
I have a number of reviews of Reformed books on Amazon. There is a link to them in the Reformed links below.
"Seeing [that] the Lord of lords, the Lord Jesus, is so ready (never was there king so ready to hear a subject as Jesus is), [even] if thou wert the vilest body that goes, a thief, a harlot, etc., yet if thou wilt say this, 'Lord, remember on me, and give me a part of thy kingdom'; - if thou prayest to him from a penitent heart, with confidence and assurance, I promise unto thee, heaven and earth shall go [fall] together ere thou wantest [lack] thine asking. Seeing [that] our Lord Jesus is so liberal [free-giving], then seek more than enough, more than a kingdom, and thou shalt get more. The only cause why we want [lack] is in us: we have no hearts to seek it." - Rev. Robert Rollock, Scottish Presbyterian minister, about 1590, in a commentary on Luke 23:42-43