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ReaD ThiS ::: No “Gospel” For Augustine

I realize we are in the middle of a book review about the ancient Persian Empire, but Perry C. Robinson (a member of the Orthodox Church) has written such a well argued post about how St. Augustine did not believe in justification by faith alone (also known as sola fide),  I just had to create a link to it here.  He concludes that if sola fide is the gospel, Augustine didn’t have it.

I’ve read through some of his other posts also.  They are very good.  I now include his blog on my blog roll. 

:::::::::::::::::::: HT: Energetic Procession

:: The Sacrament of Baptism in Roman Catholic Theology ::

Baptism is efficacious—it removes the guilt of original sin and regenerates the soul, freeing one from the slavery of sin and conferring justifying grace, leaving an indelible mark on the baptized which can never be removed (not even by mortal sin) and marks the believer with the “seal.”[1]  It actually accomplishes that which it symbolizes—death to sin and the new birth of the Holy Spirit.  Baptism is therefore the Gateway to the Christian life—to justifying grace, to membership in the Catholic Church, to communion with Christ, his sufferings and baptism, to the common priesthood of all believers, etc.  Baptism is thus also necessary—for salvation, justification, sanctification, etc., and since children are born with original sin, they too must be baptized.  Christian Baptism is prefigured in the crossing of Jordan into the promise land, in Noah’s ark as a symbol of salvation, and above all in the Exodus as a symbol of liberation from bondage.  Water has always been a symbol of life and fruitfulness, yet the water of the sea is a symbol of death, and thus represents the death of Christ and consequently the death of the believer who dies with Christ through Baptism. 

Yet, although “God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism … he himself is not bound by his sacraments.”[2]  Therefore, exceptions include 1) baptism of desire (those who die with the intention to be baptized, such as a catechumen who dies before he/she is baptized), 2) baptism of blood (those who die in martyrdom for their faith before they are able to be baptized), 3) those who seek the truth and do the will of God in accordance with his or her understanding of it (for such persons “would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity”),[3] and 4) probably unbaptized infants, since God’s mercy is so great, and since Jesus had a tender heart toward children.   

The Roman Catholic celebration of Baptism is extensive and detailed.  Although only a bishop, priest, or (in the Latin Church) a deacon ordinarily administers baptism, in case of necessity, anyone who sincerely wished to truly perform the celebration may do so.[4]  All not yet baptized are subject to baptism, but since baptism can never be repeated, only those not yet baptized can be candidates.[5]  For the celebration of baptism, many rituals must be performed—exorcisms, the consecration of the baptismal waters, confession of faith, triple immersion (or triple pouring) in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the post-baptismal anointing which symbolizes the anointing of the Holy Spirit, the white garment which symbolizes the putting on of Christ, the candle which symbolizes the enlightened neophyte and the transformation of this one from darkness to light (even the light of the world), and finally, the solemn blessing which concludes the celebration.          

Texts which on the surface seem to support Baptismal regeneration—which is directly tied to salvation—are used in support of the Roman Catholic understanding of Baptism as efficacious for purification and regeneration.  Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:5).[6]  In addition to baptism being central to the Great Commission, Jesus explicitly says, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved” (Mk 16:16).  The apostles carried out their preaching in the same way.  The Chief Apostle Peter preached this way: “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).  Thus, it is no surprise that Paul would also strongly connect Baptism with dying to sin and being liberated from its bondage (Rom 6:4-7, cf. Col 2:12).  The Catechism suffers no shortage of proof texts for Baptismal Regeneration (see also Titus 3:5; 1 Pet 3:20; Gal 3:27; 1 Cor 6:11; 12:13; Eph 5:26).  For infant baptism, the Catechism first recognizes that infants are born with a sin nature which leaves them in need of salvation.  Secondly, it harkens to Jesus words, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mk 10:14).  Thirdly, it appeals to the “explicit testimony to this practice from the second century on.”[7]  Lastly, the Catechism appeals to “household” baptism of the NT (Acts 16:15, 33; 18:8; 1 Cor 1:16).  A frequent theme in defense of the inclusivistic widening of baptismal grace is an appeal to the desire of “God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:6).  This verse is reference more than once in the section on baptism.

            Compared to many other doctrines of Roman Catholicism which find not even a shadow of support from the NT, Rome’s support for her views on Baptism seems at first impressive.  Whereas much of the Catechism’s footnotes and quotes hearken more to Tradition, the majority of arguments in this section come straight from scripture.  Much of Protestant Evangelical Theology will differ immensely from the views summarized above.  There is no way to give a substantive critique of the mountain of biblical passages appealed to in the above mentioned summary, so I must only give a hint as to how certain Protestant Evangelicals would critique the Roman Catholic arguments employed in defense of their views.  Although on the surface the passages cited are very persuasive, in the end, the conclusions Rome draws from these verses violate her own canons about biblical interpretation—namely, to “be especially attentive ‘to the content and unity of the whole Scripture,'” and to “be attentive to the analogy of faith.”[8]  Passages in Scripture which teach that salvation comes at the moment of faith—not the moment of baptism—are overwhelming in number, and more didactic in nature.  Therefore, in spite of the plethora of proof texts, Rome falls short of her own standards of hermeneutics.  Rome’s arguments for Inclusivism, which are based on the general concepts of the mercy and compassion of God are in need of more exegetical input.  We should not assume God’s mercy extends beyond the explicit ways revealed to us in Sacred Scripture.  Finally, as the most frequently quoted verse in Rome’s whole defense for Baptismal Regeneration, John 3:5, the concept of being born of water and Spirit is drawn from OT imagery about the New Covenant.  Therefore, Jesus language of the necessity of being born of water and Spirit is tantamount to speaking of the necessity of being a part of the New Covenant (Ezek 36:25-26).  One should not, then, read water baptism into this apocalyptic symbolism.          

From an evangelical Baptist perspective, Jesus’ words about children are just that—words about children, not infants.  Jesus referred to children who were at least old enough to “come” to him (physically, not spiritually).  The passages about “household” baptisms are presumptuous in that they must assume that the households referred to include infants (which is not explicitly in the text), but also it seems clear from comparing parallel accounts of baptisms that when a household was baptized it was because the household also believed (Acts 16:34; 18:8).[9]  Beyond the fact that Protestants do not accept arguments from church history on equal grounds with Scripture, the evidence from church history can also be interpreted in a way which actually creates an argument against infant baptism.

Rome’s doctrine of baptism is not all bad.  Adult baptisms are likely to be handed with greater care than in Protestant churches by emphasizing the need for catechesis.[10]  Also, she emphasizes the importance of the responsibility of the church to help nourish those who join the church through baptism, as well as the responsibility of those who are baptized to respect church authority.[11]  She rightly sees a connection between faith and baptism.  She rightly sees baptism as central to the great commission, and as symbolizing our death to sin and resurrection to new life.  As is common with all sacraments and doctrines of Rome, she sees the mystery of the sacrament summed up in Christ: “In Christ’s death ‘is the whole mystery.'”[12]  However, while getting these less important details right, Rome has indeed presented quite a different way of salvation than that which so many evangelical protestants believe to be the biblical doctrine of salvation by her teaching of the efficacy of regeneration and forgiveness of sins through baptism. This leads many evangelicals to conclude that Rome’s doctrine of baptism, with her understanding of its efficacy, with her inclusive tendencies, with her practice of infant baptism, violently distorts the biblical gospel.  I would remind such Protestants that Jesus himself (his incarnation, death, burial, and resurrection) is the essential part of the kerygmatic gospel in the NT (1 Cor 15:3-4) not a specific view about baptism.  Plenty of Protestants also believe in the efficacy of water baptism for salvation.  In fact, Martin Luther himself believed this and taught it with a passion.  If we accuse Rome of distorting the very gospel of Jesus Christ on account of her beliefs about baptism, we will get more than we bargained for and end up condemning almost the whole pre-reformation church, including the early martyrs, the apostolic and patristic fathers, Saint Augustine, Martin Luther himself, and several Protestant denominations.  Perhaps Rome is wrong on her doctrine of baptism, but this does not mean Catholics deny the incarnation, death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Let’s not make too little of the gospel and too much of our different views of baptism.        


[1] Although the idea of “seal” seems to communicate that one is sealed for eternal salvation, if one does not “keep” the seal he or she receives then that person will lose his or her status in the state of grace, make shipwreck of their faith and go to hell—even though they would still have a permanent “mark” on their soul.  In other words, neither the seal, nor the indelible mark are any guarantee of salvation, just guarantee of a “mark” and a losable “seal.”  Catechism, par 1274.

[2] Catechism, par 1257.

[3] Catechism, par 1260.

[4] After all, it is better that a layman perform the sacrament unlawfully than that the one desiring baptism lose out on salvation.

[5] The church is only willing to baptize anyone who has never been baptized.

[6] This text, John 3:5, is appealed to more than any other verse in the section on Baptism—5 times total.  See footnotes 24, 25, 40, 59, and 64.

[7] Catechism, par 1252.

[8] Catechism, par 112 & 114.

[9] It should be noted that Rome seems hesitant to use these verses as prove her case, since she holds out the “possibility” that they may not refer to infant baptisms.  Catechism, par 1252.   

[10] Catechism, par 1216, 1233, 1248.

[11] Catechism, par 1255, 1269, 1271.

[12] Catechism, par 1225. 

What Martin Luther Really Said ::: Luther’s Sola Fide

Martin Luther’s doctrine of justification is all too often assumed to be the same doctrine that later wound up in the Reformed Orthodox creeds.  This sola fide (the one of Reformed Orthodoxy) tends to be read back into the magisterial Reformers, and in this manner the nuances of the original Reformation sola fide are missed.  

The excerpts below come from Martin Luther’s introduction and summary of the book of Romans.  Martin Luther, Commentary on Romans, trans. J. Theodore Mueller (Grand Rapids: Kregel Classic, Zondervan, 1954).  

Notice that Luther’s notion of justifying righteousness is faith itself because faith satisfies the law.  Luther’s notion of justifying righteousness, then, was not Christ’s active and passive obedience, as in much of the Reformed versions of the doctrine of imputation.   (more…)

^_^_^__Tony Jones’ Test of Orthodoxy__^_^_^

The following is an interesting excerpt from Tony Jones’ post entitled, “The Orthodoxy of Down Syndrome

Since I’m probably as philosophically as theologically bent, I’ve often struggled with the more conservative conceptions of orthodoxy because they surely tend to overestimate the ability of many human beings to articulate complex theological ideas.  Jesus (“Come, follow me”) and Paul (“if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”) both had thresholds of belief to which, I assume, most developmentally challenged persons could rise.

(more…)

The Joel Osteen Challenge ::: Prove He’s A Heretic If You Can

I was up late last night with Larry King.  He interviewed Joel Osteen and his wife, Victoria.  For the first time in my life, I actually liked some things Joel said, and this interview gave me a new perspective on the Osteens.  

1. A caller asked how much money he makes from the church, and he told the caller that he takes ZERO money from the church, and his only income is from outside sources, mainly from his books. 

2. Larry asked if Joel saw any problem with a minister having lots of money.  Joel said Abraham was a rich man, so was David and Solomon, yet they were men of God.  Thus, he concluded, the key is whether “you have the money or the money has you.”  He also admitted that Jesus wasn’t about money, and that Jesus lived for other people not himself and that we should follow his example.  When someone put him on the spot and asked, “What causes do you give to?”  He said he gives to many causes and quickly named two: Feed the Children, and Mercy Ministries.  He says that’s why he thinks God blesses people—so that they can be a blessing to others.  

3. My favorite part of the interview was this: Larry tells Joel that some people say he preaches a prosperity gospel, and Joel says he doesn’t like the term “prosperity gospel,” because, and I quote, “There’s only one gospel.”  But what did Joel say that gospel was?  That Christ died for us to make a way for salvation.  Sounds very similar to what the average evangelical layperson would say.  

4. When asked what he wants his legacy to be, he says he wants to be remember as someone who brought hope to the world and drew people closer in their walk with God.

I have to admit, I enjoyed hearing Joel talk about his faith.  He’s got a contagious enthusiasm.  I’m not saying he knows how to preach the Bible well, or that his hermeneutics are typically on point.  From the interview, however, it appears that most of the worst things people say about him aren’t true.  

If you think I’m wrong, give me your best shot.  Point me to some direct quotations from Joel that prove he doesn’t believe in the gospel or somehow fundamentally contradicts it.  Show me the worst possible quotations from the man’s lips you can find.      

Larry’s show ended by showing his worship team singing Amazing Grace at a Lakewood worship service … 

my chains are gone I’ve been set free

my god my savior has ransomed me 

and like a flood, his mercy reigns

unending love, amazing grace  

Larry King concludes, “What an inspiring Group.”

s i m p l e • g o s p e l ::: Martin Luther’s Gospel

From Martin Luther, Commentary on Romans, trans. J. Theodore Mueller (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1954), xv. 

But the Holy Ghost is not given except in, with, and by faith in Jesus Christ, as he says in the introduction; and faith does not come, save only through God’s Word or Gospel, which preaches Christ, that He is God’s Son and a man, has died and risen again for our sakes, as he says in chapters 3, 4, and 10 [of Romans]. [italics added]. 

Theologians will tell you that if you don’t understand that “for our sakes” in their particular traditions nuanced sense, you’re not really believing the true gospel.  I say she who repents and has faith in a Christ (i.e. messiah) who is God incarnate and died for us, and is risen, believes the basic gospel and is saved.  That simple.  Theologians tend to complicate the gospel.

If evangelicalism were more evangelical ***

If evangelicalism were more evangelical, it would be more about the gospel (the evangel), and less about what divides those who sincerely believe in this one gospel, though they differ on many other issues.

(read, gospel = incarnation, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ)

s i m p l e • g o s p e l ::: N.T. Wright & Martin Luther’s Gospel

Shot out to Nick Mitchell for showing us that N.T. Wright and Martin Luther both agree on the basic message of the gospel.  How can this be?  Because the core message of the gospel is simple, and does not involve (in either’s definition) the doctrine of justification.  

Now that’s good news.  

——————————–HT: Kingdom People———————————-

s i m p l e • g o s p e l ::: Eric L. Johnson’s Gospel

In the spirit of Trevin Wax’s helpful “gospel definition” posts, I offer Eric L. Johnson’s articulation of the simple gospel message from his impressive magnum opus Foundations for Soul Care

The good news of the gospel is an articulation of the free gift of divine salvation and soul-healing, accomplished through Christ’s life, death and resurrection and offered to all who consent to it from the heart.

A few things are interesting about this definition.  1) it defines the gospel as “an articulation of” certain truths, 2) it includes what we would normally call sanctification in protestant lingo (“soul healing”), 3) rather than saying, “offered to all those who believe,” he spells out faith as “consent of the heart.”  Very interesting.  

Eric L. Johnson, Foundations for Soul Care: A Christian Psychology Proposal (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2007), 33.

—————————–HT: Kingdom People——————————-

::: b l o g • s h o t ::: #3

Gerald Hiestand, pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel and President of the Society for the Advancement of Ecclesial Theology, calls men to the pastor-scholar paradigm.

Celucien L. Joseph appreciates Gregery Boyd’s thoughts on how racial reconciliation is an important aspect of the biblical gospel.  In another post, he talks about race consciousness.  Once anglo’s are no longer the dominant race in the U.S., perhaps they will give more attention to this topic.  For now it seems like only a handful of anglo people even have this issue on their radar.  

Owen Strachan is accused of “Legalism,” because of his post “The Twitter Debate,” on how he doesn’t think Twitter is a good use of his time. He defends himself here.

Treven Wax posts Martin Luther’s definition of the gospel, which shows that Luther didn’t always think of the core of the gospel message as including the doctrine of justification.

John Armstrong exposes us to the concept of “coerced consensus.”

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