Friday, July 24, 2009

Mean meanies of Grace

Acts 2:38

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. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call.

Calvinists will shout Sovereign Grace, Sovereign Grace! Lutherans will shout Means of Grace, Means of Grace!

When I was a Pentecostal (and was a credo-baptist), I was often asked by converted folk, "Look if I am saved by faith, why do I get baptized, why is this needed? What is this for"? Good question, no?

Guess what my answer was? I answered - well Jesus said you should be baptized so you should be, besides, baptism is showing your commitment to follow Christ. It is a reflection of what has happened in you as a witness to the outside world. Then we would both walk away, but in my head - a niggling thought would still linger - "yeah, so what if I do not get baptized, since it does not do anything and I am saved by faith, that is it, so what is the baptism for"? Really, the reason I gave those folks were so flimsy justification for baptism.

What non-Lutheran Prots think regarding the Lutheran idea of baptism is that a.) it contradicts sola fide, JBFA. ( so they think), b.) how could God be tied to something, some kind of work (so they think)? They observe baptism and even observe the life of the baptized and it seems nothing happened when that baby was being baptized and furthermore, that adult now lives such a sinner, it is hard to believe something happened back there.

Non-Lutheran Prots who believe in the doctrine of sola fide do not really understand the Lutheran concept of sola fide. Yet, they will understand it, if they take the time to put down their preconceived ideas, brazenly look at the Scripture's text and the Lutheran explanation. I was a non-Lutheran Prot too, so it can be done.

I need to quote Larry again here, his experience is worth studying...

If I might put it in a nutshell the best trick the devil has done is to take the means of grace and gloss them over with a coat of ‘white wash works righteousness’, so that grace now looks like, to many, works righteousness. E.g. Infant baptism is the ultimate view of the distribution of real and true grace to someone who can do nothing but RECEIVE it. The devil being a sly general sees, “Oh they only want grace eh.” So he camouflages infant baptism with the errors of Rome so that it looks like works righteousness and tada the Baptist heresy is born. So that now no one in that theology, baptistic, may take advantage of their baptism as a true means of grace. It’s as if they are poor and starving with no money and all they think they have is this heavy white garden block that is just short of junk that can be thrown out (the works righteousness white wash over infant Baptism). The do not realize that what they have under that false doctrine white wash is the golden treasure from heaven. So that when they suffer from hungering and thirsting for a righteousness that is not their own (am I really saved, reborn, elect), they never go to that ‘white washed heavy block’ to realize God has given them the righteousness. If they could but or if others like Lutherans could be scrap a little of the devil’s white wash off of that heavy block and say, “SEE look GOLD not concrete – you have the wealth of heaven on you in your baptism!”

The same thing applies to the real presence issue regarding the Lord’s Supper. The devil’s white wash under the Mass has caused many, including the brilliance of Zwingli and Calvin and their successive followers to no longer see the true gold from heaven that is the very and true body and blood of Christ.

Having now diverted many Christians from the true means of grace by a ‘white wash’ of works righteousness, he now diverts them to false “means of grace” which are not any such things but truly works righteousness and false hopes. The examples vary from denomination to denomination and from church to church but range from alter calls, rededications, praying the prayer of salvation again and again, rebaptism, not the true body and blood of Christ rituals, and general empty “free style” liturgies. These works righteousnesses are glossed over by the devil with a paint of grace.

So that the real means of grace, the Pure Gospel and the Sacraments according to Christ’s institution are white washed with works righteousness white wash; and false means of grace which are really works righteousness are glossed over with ‘grace colored paint’. So that men avoid true grace and go to false grace which is works righteousness!

The devil ALWAYS inverts the Word of God, nothing new under the sun.




Steve Martin said...

Thanks, LPC & Larry.

Whenever Christ commanded that we do something, "go into all the world, baptising and teaching about me..." (notice the order, by the way- baptism comes before teaching)...anyway, Christ is always there in what He commands.

He never said, 'go and give people faith'...He said go and baptise all nations (ponta ethne - which means all people...over the age of 13...NOT)

Good friends in Christ, please remember, God is the One doing the baptising. He can handle giving faith to anyone he pleases.

It has always blown my mind that almost all Christians believe that Christ can actually be present in a person's heart...but yet they turn right around and say that He can't be present in a bowl of water accompanied by His Word of promise to an infant at the font.

They are forgetting who is really doing the baptising, and the power that He has to give faith to whomever He wants to give it. He can make the stones shout if He wants to.

These good folks need to stop thinking of God in the ways that they view mere mortals, and actually let Him be God.

L P said...


I am convinced that the means of grace and the doctrine of justification - sola fide are bound up together.

It is when they are disentangled that controversies happen. Thank God that during the Interim, the Gnesio -Lutherans saw the Cryto-Calvinists and wiped out their influence, hence, it has enjoyed peace.

Arminianism is not a Lutheran controversy, it is a Calvinist one, but this is because both have no means of grace that is why you get the messy situation Evangelicalism is in.


Augustinian Successor said...

"I am convinced that the means of grace and the doctrine of justification - sola fide are bound up together ..."

Precisely Kuya! The other Evangelicals have it wrong when they separate the means from the grace. Faith is ALWAYS faith which comes EXTRA NOS! Or else it is not the faith of the GOSPEL, but Law ...

L P said...


The other Evangelicals have it wrong when they separate the means from the grace.

I like your way of putting it, they separate the grace from the means.

When this happens, grace becomes vapor.

Thanks for that insight bro.


Anonymous said...

The main difference between Arminian, semi-pelagian, pelagians on one side and Calvinist on the other side concerning the synergism I think would be this:

1. The former group actively INTENDS to insert synergism.

2. The later group does so by a tragic accident of their doctrine.

Because the former group(s) would defend it while the later would be shocked to find it out. Both err in COMMON in that they ultimately let their logic take them beyond the Word of God (though both would undoubtedly deny this).

In one irony it is the Calvinistic Baptist who are the most consistent with their non-sacramental TULIP doctrine. Reformed Calvinist WANT to be like Luther but since they, like Calvin, reject the real sacramental doctrine, they really cannot get there. The desire is there but they hold on to heresy to tightly so they end up in this half way house. With half of the Reformed leaning closer to Zwingli and even closer to Baptist, and the other half of what has been termed “crypto-lutherans” leaning more toward Luther but like Calvin, not quite there.

I always found it VERY odd when I was Reformed that there is a very large, the majority report, of Reformed out there that commune much with their Calvinistic Baptist counter parts. This same sub-group within the Reformed camp has a disdain for the “crypto-lutherans” in their Reformed camp. One doesn’t have to read or go far to find this out in the Reformed world and especially the blogsphere.

I discovered it this way when I use to ask on Reformed discussions, “Why do you all utterly reject Luther and Lutherans per se, but warm up plenteously with Baptist?” Because one thing is very clear about John Calvin HIMSELF, he would have NEVER warmed up to Baptist or so called Reformed/Calvinistic Baptist. His words against the proto-baptist of his time, the Anabaptist, where as fiery as Luther EVER was. EVEN John Knox considered the enthusiasts, the Baptist and Anabaptist from his perspective, and said so, worse than Rome herself and a plague on the Christian faith. So called “Calvinistic Baptist” would not find an ally in Calvin himself, in fact the opposite.

Now I say that to gain theological perspective not to be polemical for the sake of being polemical.

So IF Calvin was indeed closer to Luther it would seem that Calvin’s descendants would gravitate closer to Luther, but that’s not at all what we find today. We find the majority report of Reformed Calvinist gravitating and mingling with Calvinistic, Reformed, TULIPish Baptist.

I think what it really shows is that what happened at Marburg pretty much exhausted the issue and found that at the end of the day you have Luther on one side with Bucer, Zwingli and the others on the other with absolutely no middle ground. Nor can there ever be unless Lutherans cave in and become effectually Calvinist themselves.


L P said...


There are well and truly crypto-Lutherans in the Calvinist camp. The Federal Vision on the Sacraments will be the example, however, they have a chain, they are trying to get to the finish line were the Lutherans are but they do not quite get there.

Also what prompted me to finally quote you was the broad cast I heard from James White.

The above is a broadcast wherein a caller asked James White about Lutheranism.

Dr. White admits he does not know much about Lutheran doctrine. He is even puzzled how Lutherans can mix sola fide with Sacraments, this shows that he does not know our sola fide! Also shows he does not accept means of grace.

One interesting point you mentioned is that Reformed Calvinist rather than gravitating towards Lutherans gravitate instead towards Baptists. This show there is something unhinged. They actually do not believe in the means of grace. Very perceptive of you.


M. A. Henderson said...

"IF Calvin was indeed closer to Luther it would seem that Calvin’s descendants would gravitate closer to Luther, but that’s not at all what we find today. We find the majority report of Reformed Calvinist gravitating and mingling with Calvinistic, Reformed, TULIPish Baptist."

Good observation, Larry.
Refer my comments on a previous thread: the reason American "Calvinists" hobnob with Baptists has a lot to do with the common ancestry of Puritanism, which separated Word & Spirit.

The same applies to Lutherans who hobnob with Baptists, btw, except the culprit is Pietism. Guess what? Pietism was heavily influenced by British Puritanism.

I commented on this recently on my blog "Glosses..." in reference to a quote from Richard Sibbes.

L P said...

Pr. M.

American "Calvinists" hobnob with Baptists has a lot to do with the common ancestry of Puritanism, which separated Word & Spirit

That is a good observation too. Surely that is a strong connection.

re: Lutheran Pietism. I heard that Spener was actually influenced by Dutch Reformed Pietism?


M. A. Henderson said...

You may mean Jean de Labadie, who was French but had an impact in Holland through his communitarian sect?

L P said...

I think that must be the guy.


M. A. Henderson said...

Thinking about this issue, i.e. loss of the Means of Grace among so many Protestants, in a wider context, I think it points up the dangers of doing theology from a purely reactionary stance. I'll go out on a limb here (again) and say that much of Reformed theology in the widest sense of that term (i.e. not just Calvinism but all the schools of doctrine that have spun off it in a positive and negative sense, e.g. Arminians of various sorts) has been driven by purely reactionary anti-Romanism, rather than by the desire to be faithful to what scripture teaches.
So, they have "thrown thge baby out with the bathwater", the baby in this case being the realistic doctrines of Baptism and the Lord's Supper that scripture teaches - realistic in the sense that they are REALLY Means of Grace or Means of the Spirit - and the bathwater being Roman sacramentalism and the ex opere operato theory of how sacraments work.
The Lutheran Reformation, in great contrast to Zwinglianism and later movements like Puritanism, the Dutch Second Reformation and American Evangelicalism, took its stand on scripture in a positive sense, rather than merely being a reaction to the errors of Rome. But Zwingli, the Puritans who owed so much to him (via Bullinger et al) and the Evangelicals who in turn owed so much to the Puritans, were so driven by their anti-Roman animus that they overlooked the plain grammatical teaching of scripture.
As it happens, I've recently posted a quote from Hermann SAsse that is germane to this point on my 'What Sasse Said'.

L P said...

I think this is true.

The Anti-Romanism went full circle in that non-Lutheran Prots wind up being the same as what they hate.

Eventually both are Enthusiastic.

Eventually in the Sacraments the Romans turned it to a gift in exchange for a work. The anti-Romans looked at it as no gift, no work. For the Lutheran Reformers, it is a gift and no work on our own. Meaning the Lutheran comes to receive a gift.

This is one of the hardest thing to make a non-Lutheran Prot to understand because when they see us, they think we are like Romans looking at Sacraments as a form of works.


M. A. Henderson said...

Yes, that is surely one of the great ironies of church history.

It also betrays a very superficial judgement when a Baptist who has turned sacraments into sacrifices says to a Lutheran:
"You have a crucifix, an altar, vestments, stained glass, a formal liturgy, you still have the leaven of Rome".

L P said...

Pr. M.

I left BTW a comment on a Luther quote in your Sasse blog.

I often refer to the baptistic reformation as over shooting primitive christianity i.e their reformation turn out to be sub-Christian.


M. A. Henderson said...

Volume 25 of Luther's Works is one I don't have yet, so I can't read the quote in context either. I would like to verify the quote before commenting on it, so I will see if I can access it elsewhere.

Bearing that in mind, my first thoughts are: it needs to be read in the context of the particular writing, and also the larger context of Luther's theology, which he did revise over time.

Another important consideration is that the doctrine of the Lutheran Church is expressed in the Book of Concord, not Luther's writings, th elatter are at best an explanatory aid.

L P said...

Pr. M,

I am very impoverished when it comes to Lutheran books, I only have a few you can count with your fingers. You do have my email, right? I might give you a ring, since your church should be in the LCA.

I understand Table Talk materials are a bit suspicious at times. Indeed the context should be read and that is why I am consulting you on it. Also true, the BoC is our confession and not that of Luther's.

Let me know when you had a chance.

Thanks for this.


M. A. Henderson said...


Do you still have the sleekersoft address? I sent mail to you there.


Dawn K said...

LP wrote,

"This is one of the hardest thing to make a non-Lutheran Prot to understand because when they see us, they think we are like Romans looking at Sacraments as a form of works."

This is absolutely true. In my experience it is like pulling teeth to get a non-Lutheran Protestant to understand (or to even concede that Lutherans teach!) that the Sacraments are not our works, but God's. One can go in circles literally for hours with such people. It is very frustrating.


L P said...

Hi Dawn,

It is indeed frustrating because the mind set they are in is like a box or like a jail cell, they cannot think out of the box and deal with the Scriptures at face value.

Acts 2:38. This is just skipped and excused away.

So they wind up impoverished.