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Posts Tagged ‘Baptismal efficacy’

Ok, let’s take a moment to comment about this piece. The author opens up by making this assertion:

One of the major ways in which the Federal Vision departs from the historic Reformed/Presbyterian confessions is in their view of baptism.  They view baptism as effective instrument which unites a person to Christ.

The author then gives damning quotes from me, Rich Lusk, and Doug Wilson, wherein each of us acknowledge that we in fact hold that baptism unites one to Christ and then, he concludes:

Unlike the Federal Vision, the Reformed position doesn’t attribute this type of efficacy or instrumentality to baptism.  Instead, the Reformed talk about faith alone (sola fide) as an instrument

Of course, not a single one of us denies the necessity of faith in Jesus for salvation as the author implies, but that aside, let’s check his main assertion out for a minute. Is it true that the “Reformed position doesn’t attribute this type of efficacy or instrumentality to baptism”? Here’s what John Knox thought about baptism:

By baptism we are engrafted into Christ Jesus, to be made partakers of his righteousness, by which our sins are covered and remitted. (1560 Scots Confession)

Here’s the teaching of the French Confession (1559):

Baptism witnesses to our adoption, for by it we are grafted into the body of Christ, that being washed with his blood we might be renewed by his Spirit unto holiness of life. In baptism, God gives us really and in fact that which he there sets before us; and that consequently with theses signs is given true possession and enjoyment of that which they present to us.

Martin Bucer, in his 1537 liturgy for infant baptism, directed the minister to pray this prayer after the administration of baptism:

Almighty God, heavenly Father, we give you eternal praise and thanks, that you have granted and bestowed upon this child your fellowship, that you have born him again to yourself through holy baptism, that he has been incorporated into your beloved son, our only savior, and is now your child and heir.

John Calvin says:

We assert that the whole guilt of sin is taken away in baptism, so that the remains of sin still existing are not imputed. That this may be more clear, let my readers call to mind that there is a twofold grace in baptism, for therein both remission of sins and regeneration are offered to us. We teach that full remission is made, but that regeneration is only begun and goes on making progress during the whole of life. (Antidote to the Council of Trent, 1.5)

The position of the Reformers is summarized in the Second Helvetic Confession (1566) on the efficacy of baptism:

To be baptized in the name of Christ is to be enrolled, entered, and received into the covenant and family, and so into the inheritance of the sons of God; yes, and in this life to be called after the name of God; that is to say, to be called a son of God; to be cleansed also from the filthiness of sins, and to be granted the manifold grace of God, in order to lead a new and innocent life. Baptism, therefore, calls to mind and renews the great favor God has shown to the race of mortal men. For we are all born in the pollution of sin and are the children of wrath. But God, who is rich in mercy, freely cleanses us from our sins by the blood of his Son, and in him adopts us to be his sons, and by a holy covenant joins us to himself, and enriches us with various gifts, that we might live a new life. All these things are assured by baptism. For inwardly we are regenerated, purified, and renewed by God through the Holy Spiorit and outwardly we receive the assurance of the greatest gifts in the water, by which also those great benefits are represented, and as it were, set before our eyes to be beheld.

And many, many more quotes could be lined up to confirm what those who stood in the historic Reformed tradition have believed about baptismal efficacy.

In spite of this our author concludes, apparently, without even the slightest twinge of uneasiness, that the “Reformed position” doesn’t hold these views. Well, ok boss, if you say so. The problem is the only way I can agree with you is if I ignore what the vast majority of the Reformers actually believed. You’ll forgive me if I conclude that your assertion is a tad weak.

But since the “Aquila Report” (to some, the official arbiter of what being “Reformed” means nowadays) has endorsed this position, I’ll just say that being called “unReformed” is a small price to pray for the privilege of standing with Knox, Calvin, and Bucer.

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