Dear Baptist/evangelical brothers and sisters in Christ,I am actually Catholic, not Baptist or evangelical. I doubt many of them read this blog.The original post was Dr Bryan Cross addressing Presbyterian pastor Wes White. So we have a lot of traditions around here. A lot of different teachings on Baptism.
I ask you to consider these points:
1. When God said that he would preserve his Word, what did he mean? Did he mean that he would preserve the original papyrus and parchment upon which his Word was written? If so, then his Word has disappeared as none of the original manuscripts remain.Gary here conflates the ideas of translation and interpretive tradition. Translation does not need to be just language to language like from Koine Greek to English. It could be from biblical English to practical, modern English. But the point he makes is a good one. Did God just leave the scriptures here on earth or does He continue to be concerned with how His word is translated and taught?
Did he mean that he would preserve his word in the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek only? He would not preserve his Word when it was translated into all the other languages of the world?
Or did God mean that he would preserve his Word…the message/the words…the Gospel: the free gift of salvation, and the true doctrines of the Christian Faith? Would God allow his Word/his message to mankind to be so polluted by translation errors that no translation, into any other language from the three original languages, continues to convey his true words?
2. There is NO translation of the Bible, from the original ancient languages, into ANY language, ANYWHERE on earth, that translates the Bible as the Baptists/evangelicals believe it should be translated.Again, he is concerned with translations, like there is some sort of gift of infallibility there. It is natural when you believe in Sola Scriptura and you are not trained in the biblical languages to be concerned about translation. You are really at the translators mercy. When somebody claims the Greek really says something different then what seemed like a solid biblical argument can instantly become flimsy. So he appeals, not to the intelligence of the translators, but to the grace of God. God would not allow all English translations to be misleading.
No Bible translation on earth translates Acts 2:38 as, “Repent and believe in Jesus Christ every one of you and you will receive the Holy Ghost. Then be baptized as a public profession of your faith.”
Why would God allow EVERY English translation of the Bible throughout history to be mistranslated or use such confusing language as to suggest that God forgives sins in Baptism? And not only all English translations, ALL translations of the Bible have retained these “mistranslations or confusing wording”.
Do you honestly believe that God would allow his Word to be so polluted with translation errors that EVERY Bible in the world, if read in its simple, plain interpretation, would tell the people of the world that God forgives sins in water baptism??
He is right that God does give us grace to prevent His word from being corrupted but that is not the way it works. He does not give us linguistic experts we can trust. He gives s spiritual leaders we can trust.
He does make a good point that baptismal regeneration does seem like the most natural reading of scripture. That you have to explain why texts that seem to tie baptism to salvation don't really mean that. Being consistent with the plain reading of scripture is supposed to be one of the strenghts of Protestantism. It does not always work out that way. Typically, Protestants can see this in other Protestant traditions. Here you have a Lutheran pointing out the problem in Baptist theology. It exists in them all. The plain meaning of scripture is just not the best way to be certain who is right. It would work here. Baptismal regeneration is the right doctrine and it is most consistent with scripture.
3. Why is there not one single piece of evidence from the early Christians that indicates that ANYONE in the 800-1,000 years after Christ believed that: Water baptism is ONLY a public profession of faith/act of obedience; sins are NOT forgiven in water baptism? Yes, you will find statements by these early Christians that salvation is by faith, but do Baptists and evangelicals really understand how a sinner obtains saving faith? THAT IS THE MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION, MY FRIENDS! Does the sinner produce faith by his own free will or does God provide faith and belief as a gift, and if God does provide faith and belief as a free gift, with no strings attached, WHEN exactly does God give it?It is interesting that he goes back to the first 800-1000 years of Christianity. It is on his side. Baptismal Regeneration was the universal doctrine of the church during that time. But what about when it is not on his side? What about the Lutheran understanding of the role of ecumenical councils? What about the role of the pope and bishops? What about Sola Fide?
On the last point David Anders has an article on various doctrines that the early church agreed on that contradict Justification By Faith Alone. Just one example of how suggesting Christian tradition in some form is trustworthy will get a protestant in trouble. Christians tradition teaches doctrines protestants want to reject. Yet they see the logic in appealing to it when it is on their side. If God leads His church then looking at how God has led His church should tell us something about God.
4. Is it possible that: Baptist-like believers, at some point near or after 1,000 AD, were reading the Bible and came across verses that read “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” and “Call upon the name of the Lord and you will be saved” and established their doctrine of Salvation/Justification first, based on these and similar verses alone, and then, looked at the issue of water baptism, and since the idea that God forgives sins in water baptism didn’t seem to fit with the verses just mentioned, these early Baptists re-interpreted these verses to fit with their already established doctrine, instead of believing the “baptism verses” literally?Of course this is what happened. I don't think the year 1000 has much to do with it. This is more about the radical reformation in the late 16th century. After Luther and Calvin challenged the Catholic church then the Anabaptist movement challenged them. That was the process. What is wrong with it? Trying to make various parts of scripture fit is something theologians do a lot. Often it involves deciding where to start. One biblical idea is seen as literally true and another one is seen as true only in terms of analogy. But which one is which? The bible does not tell us.
Is it possible that BOTH groups of verses are literally correct?? If we believe God’s Word literally, he says that he saves/forgives sins when sinners believe/call AND when they are baptized? Why not believe that God can give the free gift of salvation in both situations: when a sinner hears the Gospel and believes and when a sinner is baptized?The "both" solution is not as simple as it seems. Salvation is tied to many things in scripture, faith, baptism, Eucharist, good works, predestination, etc. It does not deal with the questions of what happens when someone has some of these and not others. Where does our assurance of salvation come from? Luther was obsessed with that question.
Should we re-interpret God’s plain, simple words just because they don’t seem to make sense to us?
The truth is our assurance is found in our connection to the body of Christ, the church. We can be sure about things that are physical and visible. It is pretty hard to be sure of things like faith that are purely psychological. Do you believe in God enough or are your doubts too serious and too frequent? I believe in God enough to submit to baptism, to come to mass as often as the church tells me is appropriate, to go to confession when the church says it is needed, to avoid what the church teaches are gravely immoral actions. These things are all rooted in faith. Their power comes from God's grace. Yet we are made certain they are enough because the church accepts them as enough.
Without knowing which church is true than how can you know your baptism is valid? Baptismal Regeneration is the truth but it makes that question important. Is infant baptism OK? Do you need a priest or can anyone do it? Do you need to be immersed or is sprinkling OK? If you believe in Baptismal Regeneration then these questions need solid answers. The prevailing theological opinion of your denomination is not good enough. You need to know you have received the washing of regeneration that Titus 3:5 talks about or the being born of water and the spirit that John 3:5 talks about.
Protestantism has no way to answer those questions with any certainty. That is why Baptismal Regeneration is not a common belief for protestants even though it is taught by scripture and confirmed by tradition. I am not sure why Gary thinks his Luther an denomination can give him assurance on the matter.
God bless you and keep you!Thanks for the good wishes Gary.