Monday, January 17, 2011

Disturbing Notes

I read today at another blog some very disturbing statements. I need to ponder some of these statements more thoroughly, but what I quote below I shall comment upon now. The entire post entitled Circumcision Notes is found at CyberStones--A Lutheran Blog.

In the following portion from his post, the pastor addresses Moses’ failure to circumcise his son and applies this to parents who fail to baptize their children:

Moses wimped out. He didn't circumcise his sons. This happens, by the way, on their way to Egypt. The Lord has just told Moses that he will be the deliverer. Then this. No transition. Just stated as matter of fact: At a lodging place on the way the Lord sought to kill Moses. Zipporah knows the score. He was too wimpy to circumcise his son. So she had to do it. That failure didn't put the boy's life in danger so much as Moses' life. I use this with parents who delay the Baptism of their children. They say to me, “Surely, God isn't going to damn a baby because I didn't baptize him.” I say, “No, but He might damn you.” You have a duty to perform. Baptize your children. This also shows us once again how the mothers have to step in, Jael and Deborah-style, and do the father's duty when the father fails. What a terrible thing for Zipporah to have to do. But thanks be to God that she did. How many of us learned to prayer at our mother's skirt? I daresay it is not the exception, though it really should be.

Some of the thinking here conveyed is very good. But very disturbing statements are made as well. In particular, the statements to parents regarding failure or refusal to baptize their children disturb me greatly. This I shall address.

Without question I agree that the Lord commands and expects that parents who are members of the body of Christ through faith will bring their children to be baptized into His kingdom. I wholeheartedly agree that parents who do not bring their children to the fountain of forgiveness and life in God’s kingdom are sinning against God, against their children, and against the true faith.

However, I abhor the pastor’s response to the abhorrent and faithless acclamation of the parents. Both perspectives are truly horrible misrepresentations of what the Scriptures teach concerning our damned condition as well as God’s command regarding Baptism.

The parents display a total lack of understanding of the true faith by their resistance to having their child baptized. This is furthermore exemplified by their weak attempt at excusing themselves. “Surely, God isn't going to damn a baby because I didn't baptize him.”

This statement is so far askew that it is frightening to know that it is made by anyone professing to be Christian. But even more frightening is the fact that the pastor does not correct them and lead them into a right understanding of God’s grace. His response is one of a false application of God’s Law:

I say, “No, but He might damn you.” You have a duty to perform. Baptize your children.

This is horrible. This is not at all in keeping with the Scriptures.

First, God is not going to damn either the parents or the child on account of the child not being baptized. The child is already damned. That is the reason that the child needs to be baptized for the remission of sins. The child was conceived in sin, as David teaches in Psalm 51 and as the Scriptures teach throughout. St. Paul is very clear in teaching that all of mankind was made to be sinners through the sin of Adam. Sinners are all damned sinners. They are damned by their sinfulness. Their sin cuts them off from God and His holiness.

Moreover, the parents also are already damned. They are damned or condemned by their rejection of the clear words of Christ. These parents have rejected the clear doctrine of the Scriptures concerning their sinfulness and the sinfulness of their child, sinfulness from which both they and their child need to be saved. They both already stand condemned by their unbelief.

Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:5-6)

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:17-18)

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. (Mark 16:16)

The parents desperately need to be taught concerning the need for Baptism and the wonderful grace, mercy, and peace of God that He promises to give through the means of grace. Both the parents and their baby need to hear this and to be made recipients of it. This is the job of the pastor. The office of the ministry is the office of making people aware of their great need and of God’s answer to their need.

The answer that this pastor says that he gives is not an answer that leads people to respond to God in faith. His response does not even teach what the true faith is. Rather, it teaches people to rely upon themselves and to coerce them into obedience to God’s commandments. This is the way of perdition.

While I imagine or at least hope that this pastor has not rightly presented the manner in which he ministers to those who come to him, this is what he says that he does. Moreover, this is not the only example of such legalism and pharisaic doctrine presented on his blog. I respond to this in the hope that at least a few will hear the great promises attached to Baptism and joyfully to respond to God’s command to receive His grace and blessings through the means that He has ordained.

This includes the second Sacrament, the one to which Baptism brings us. For the Lord Jesus states that Baptism is the means by which we are made to enter the kingdom of God (John 3). This is the same as the Old Testament Sacrament of Circumcision. It is the one time application by God of His seal of adoption and forgiveness. In this way Baptism is a one time event, even though we return to the promises of Baptism continually, confessing our sins and receiving the holy divine absolution, and also continually heeding the calling of the Holy Spirit who comes to us and takes up residence in us through Baptism (Acts 2:38; Titus 3). But the Sacrament of the Altar is ongoing. All who are baptized are incorporated into the body of Christ to be everlasting partakers of His Holy Communion, in which we partake in His Holy Supper of His body and blood. Through this God renews us again and again and again in the one true faith by which we are kept in this Holy Communion.

From this God does not cut us off. If we are cut off from His Communion, it is by our own belligerence. God decrees the judgment so that we have every opportunity to hear His call to be turned again to Him and His means of grace. But we are the ones who effect the judgment and condemnation, cutting ourselves off from Him by not continuing in His words. God never stops calling out to the world. Even to those whose hearts He hardens, such as the Pharaoh in the days of Moses, the Lord continues to send His Word through His called servants. Pharaoh and all who are like him in their rejection of the Lord as their God refuse to receive God’s grace, and so, lest they should repent in temporal matters and be further deceived and lead to others being deceived, the Lord hardens their hearts. Even this judgment is intended to serve as a call to be turned in faith to the Lord.

God’s declaration of His judgment is not to condemn us, but to show us that we stand condemned and need to be converted and saved from our condemnation. This is why God has ordained and commanded Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. He does not want us to be condemned, but to be made to be recipients of His loving mercy and salvation.

1 comment:

Not Alone +++ PAS said...

Perhaps someone will object that the pastor spoke of parents who desire to delay the baptism of their child. But from what does this thinking arise? It is from a false minimization of the sinful condition of the child. To delay the baptism is to say that the child does not need to be baptized. If they truly believe in the necessity of Baptism, they will not delay it but will press for it as quickly as is possible. The desire to delay comes from an idolatrous worship of tradition and family, placing the need for God's salvation below tradition and pomp. This is not of faith and thus is sin and stands under God's judgment.