No Baptism, No Justification -- Thoughts on article?

Discussion in 'Anglican and Christian News' started by Classical Anglican, Nov 14, 2014.

  1. Classical Anglican

    Classical Anglican Active Member Anglican

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    "If we’re Protestants, we want to be biblical. And if we’re biblical we have to say things like “you were washed, sanctified, and justified in the Name of Jesus” and “in your baptism you died with Christ, and whoever dies is justified from sin.” Because that’s what the Bible says.

    How are we to understand this? If we talk about baptism and justification in the same breath, aren’t we falling back into justification by works?

    No, because baptism is an act of God. A human pours the water and says the words, but God performs the baptism. Baptism is an enacted word that declares the forgiveness of sins and the justification of the ungodly. The big difference between the word and baptism is that the word offers God’s grace to everyone-in-general while baptism declares God’s favor to me. Baptism wraps the gift of forgiveness and justification and puts my name on the package."


    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/evangelicalpulpit/2014/11/no-sacraments-no-protestantism/
     
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  2. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    It is a good point in general, but I also think Leithart conveys it in particular words which can alienate people who didn't need to be. Baptism wraps within it faith which justifies us, and without baptism there is no justifying faith which is what I think he's saying. Other people could take him to say that baptism itself justifies.
     
  3. Classical Anglican

    Classical Anglican Active Member Anglican

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    But doesn't your clarifying formula (which seems to be: baptism gives faith, faith gives justification) also lend itself to the possibility of confusion? Both the author of the article and you seem to be saying that Baptism is a *necessary* first step in the process that leads to justification. Your quibble seems to be that the author doesn't spend enough time clarifying that "wrapped" up between these end-points (baptism and justification) is faith. But yet it still remains true, without baptism there is no justification.

    Protestantism's identify is bundled up in the sola's, the most famous of which is justification by faith *alone.* It doesn't seem like the faith is "alone" if the faith itself requires baptism.
     
  4. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    That's right, but it's easy to go go wrong (as in so much elsewhere, in theology) in making Baptism itself the justifying act/rite/sacrament. The divine doctrine is subtle, with multiple levels and structures, which I wouldn't want to lump together into a round clump. We could just as easily say, being a Christian justifies. Or, we are saved by works. Yet these, because imprecise, would be wrong and have led to so much much argument, and even bloodshed. The devil is in the details...


    The normative contrast to faith is works. Just historically, how the arguments were made in the 16th century, frames our debate. Rome claimed that we can just clump faith with works, and say that being a Christian justifies. They weren't really interested in careful distinctions, despite their love of scholasticism and pedantry. What this led to was people not having any faith, but trying to be justified by works alone (since both can contribute..?). It would be possible to take Leithart into a similar error by claiming that once we are baptised, no faith is necessary to our justification.
     
  5. Classical Anglican

    Classical Anglican Active Member Anglican

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    What's interesting is that those normative frameworks are nonexistent or highly modified in mainstream evangelical discourse today--and perhaps that's what the author of the article is getting at. It's certainly what *I'm* trying to get at. "Alone" today isn't restricted to just "not works" in its meaning. I have heard many times the solas (or "alones") take on the strict meaning of "nothing added or visibly and causally connected to."

    What they (mainstream evangelicals) want to preclude is the possibility that the invisible grace might have a necessary visible manifestation, and that it's administration isn't directly from God to the believer, but involves the visible church. So a classical protestant might say "justification by faith alone" and implicitly carry with it "through the grace alone administered by the church through the sacrament alone which results in the faith alone that justifies." Whereas today's evangelical might also say "justification by faith alone" but implicitly carry with it "through the invisible grace God directly grants individual believers that results in the faith alone that justifies."

    Over and over it seems like there is a pervasive inability to understand the deeper underpinnings of the ancient theological truths. Sacramental ontology is dispensed with, and ministers of God become simply conveyors of ideas. No longer are they verily ministers of supernatural grace. Indeed, absent the administration of grace, there is no need to ensure proper ordination standards, and the guy (or girl!) with the best voice and rhetorical skills ends up in the pulpit. Sorry... I'm venting now.
     
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  6. Ananias

    Ananias Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Yes. This issue is why the Reformers spent so much time on the issues of justification and sanctification. We are justified before God (and saved) when we confess Christ as Lord. Sanctification is the process that follows a Christian throughout the rest of their walk in this life, and is where we render service to our Lord both within and without the Church. Justification is by faith alone -- the thief on the cross is the paradigmatic example of this. No other act or service was needed -- no baptism, no Eucharist, no works, rites, or rituals. Just faith. The thief's sanctification was necessarily brief; he was dying on a cross alongside of our Lord. The only Church he entered was the Invisible church. For the rest of us, following the good doctrine both in Church and outside of it is where our sanctification plays out. We cannot claim to be living in Christ if we do not follow his commands.
     
  7. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Anglican doctrine is that Justification begins at baptism. Belief and confession are, along with the sacraments, part of 'faith' in the phrase 'justification by faith'. As the 1662 rite puts it:

    Almighty and immortal God, the aid of all that need, the helper of all that flee to thee for succour, the life of them that believe, and the resurrection of the dead: We call upon thee for this Infant, that he, coming to thy holy Baptism, may receive remission of his sins by spiritual regeneration. Receive him, 0 Lord, as thou hast promised by thy well-beloved Son, saying, Ask, and ye shall have; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: So give now unto us that ask; let us that seek find; open the gate unto us that knock; that this Infant may enjoy the everlasting benediction of thy heavenly washing, and may come to the eternal kingdom which thou hast promised by Christ our Lord. Amen.

    We yield thee hearty thanks, most merciful Father, that it hath pleased thee to regenerate this Infant with thy Holy Spirit, to receive him for thine own Child by adoption, and to incorporate him into thy holy Church. And humbly we beseech thee to grant, that he, being dead unto sin, and living unto righteousness, and being buried with Christ in his death, may crucify the old man, and utterly abolish the whole body of sin; and that, as he is made partaker of the death of thy Son, he may also be partaker of his resurrection; so that finally, with the residue of thy holy Church, he may be an inheritor of thine everlasting kingdom; through Christ our Lord. Amen.​
     
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  8. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Confirmation play the pivotal role here. And the concept of the age of reason more generally. Prior to the age of reason, the person is simply unable to understand or profess faith. So he is justified by the faith of his godparents. That’s why the godparents are so important. But after the age of reason, God holds the child personally accountable, which is why he must then be catechised, and be justified by his own faith in God and in Christ.
     
  9. Ananias

    Ananias Well-Known Member Anglican

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    And yet we have examples of those who have been justified before God without baptism. Abraham is the primary model of this -- Paul explicitly makes this point in Romans chapter 4. Baptism comes after the declaration of faith, so by my reading of the BCP and Catechism, the taking of the Sacraments necessarily fall into the sanctification process.

    I want to be very clear that I am not arguing that baptism is unecessary; it is mandated by our obedience to the command of Jesus Christ, as a sign of our repentance of our sins and a birth into our new life in Christ. It is, I believe, when we are invested by the Holy Spirit and is our entryway into the Church Militant, the living body of Christ on earth. But I don't think the BCP (or Anglican theology) specifically marks it as the effector of Justification -- it cannot be, for our salvation is by faith alone, not by works. We are not saved by Baptism (or damned without it, assuming the lack was not our fault).
     
  10. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Yes, confirmation is important, in that it - to use the language of the liturgy - "ratifies and confirms" what was already done at baptism. However, at no point in the brief 1662 rite of confirmation is the work of justification attributed to it.

    Almighty and everliving God, who hast vouchsafed to regenerate these thy servants by Water and the Holy Ghost, and hast given unto them forgiveness of all their sins: Strengthen them, we beseech thee, 0 Lord, with the Holy Ghost the Comforter, and daily increase in them thy manifold gifts of grace; the spirit of wisdom and understanding; the spirit of counsel and ghostly strength; the spirit of knowledge and true godliness; and fill them, 0 Lord, with the spirit of thy holy fear, now and for ever. Amen.​
     
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  11. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Justification is not accomplished by the Rite of confirmation. But it becomes possible after the age of reason and the corresponding confirmation.prior to the age of reason faith if impossible.
     
  12. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Not according to Anglican doctrine and practice. Otherwise, we would not baptize infants.
    I just cited precisely where it does indeed do so, viz., the very rite of baptism itself.
    Salvation is not by works of the law, but it very much includes obedience of the very specific (and demanding) commandments of Christ, and not merely belief or verbal confession.
    This assumes a view of justification that is a single moment in time. Justification is something that happens throughout a person's life. It begins at baptism - the 'new birth' - and continues until the person's death. A baptized infant is no less a member of the Church - visible or invisible - than someone who was baptized decades ago.
     
  13. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    On that hypothesis, there is no way to explain why the liturgy says what it says. The rite of confirmation mentions the 'age of discretion', indeed, but it does not connect this in the way that you have with psychological development. That is a Baptist/evangelical doctrine, not an Anglican one. Instead, the rite says:

    ...to the end, that children, being now come to the years of discretion...will evermore endeavour themselves faithfully to observe such things...​

    The "such things" referred to are the contents of (1) the Creed, (2) the Lord's Prayer, and (3) the Ten Commandments, i.e., the Catechism. Having faith hasn't a thing to do with 'reason', nor is it something that comes from us. That is Pelagianism. The rite of confirmation is about assuming responsibility for the practice of the faith, rather than relying solely on the responsibility of others.
     
  14. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Not really evidence that the claim is true, but rather you cited evidence of the "stinking thinking" out of Rome that still carried enough influence in Anglicanism in the early 1660s to have such an unscriptural concept included in a church prayer book. Weaning from the RCC's teat was a slow process, and some still hanker for their milk yet today.
     
  15. Ananias

    Ananias Well-Known Member Anglican

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    No - you are speaking of sanctification. Justification is an event; sanctification is a process. Your understanding of Justification is far more in the RC than the Protestant mold.

    Article XI of the 39 Articles states:
    Later on, in article XXVII, we read:

    Baptism marks our entry into the Church Militant; it comes after Justification. Infant baptism takes place as part of the "duty to protect" that parents have over their children, as in their innocence they cannot make an informed declaration of faith on their own.

    *I believe this refers to homily #3, "A Sermon of the Salvation of Mankind by Only Christ Our Savior, From Sin and Death Everlasting".
     
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  16. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    I never claimed such. I was merely describing what Anglican doctrine actually is. Now, I do happen to think that Anglican doctrine accurately represents the Gospel message - and that American evangelicalism, the charismatic movement, and Roman Catholicism do not - but that is a separate subject altogether.
     
  17. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    I'm afraid that's simply incorrect. Did you read the collects from the rite of baptism I cited? This is what the Anglican liturgy attributes to baptism:
    • Regeneration
    • Forgiveness of sins
    • Incorporation into the Body of Christ, the Church*
    • Being made dead to sin and alive in Christ
    • Partaking of the death and resurrection of Christ
    What else is there to justification than this? Are these things true of a justified person at one moment only, or throughout the person's life? Do we not require forgiveness of sins throughout life? Does the Eucharist not also effect our partaking of the death and resurrection of Christ, and yet we celebrate it repeatedly?

    Now, look at what the Anglican liturgy has to say about confirmation, and what it signifies and asks for:
    • 'Daily increase in the manifold gifts of grace'
    • The spirit of wisdom and understanding
    • The spirit of counsel and spiritual strength
    • The spirit of knowledge and true godliness
    • The spirit of holy fear
    Hmm, this second list sounds an awful lot like sanctification, to me. There's nothing in there about 'conversion', or 'forgiveness of sins', etc. The whole notion of the American evangelical approach to salvation is entirely absent from what the historic Anglican liturgy - a liturgy that was written by people for whom opposition to Rome was at times a matter of life and death - has said in plain language. Why would anyone who rejects the clear teaching of the Anglican liturgy want to be Anglican in the first place?

    * Anglicanism has no doctrine of the 'invisible Church' in its own right (cf. Art. 19 & 26).
     
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  18. Ananias

    Ananias Well-Known Member Anglican

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    No! This is a doctrine of works, and it goes directly against Christian teaching. Our salvation cannot come by things we do -- it comes by the grace of God through faith. (See Romans 3:21-31 and the entirety of Romans 4.) We do not receive salvation because we earn it, because then it would not be grace, but wages for work. And the Bible is clear that we are all dead in sin and are unable to take even one step to save ourselves; it is only by the unearned and undeserved grace of God that we are saved.

    Our actions are the outworkings of faith; salvation comes by faith alone in Christ alone. The process of sanctification is living under Christ, according to his commandments set down in Scripture. You must contend with the examples of Abraham and the thief on the cross: they were saved without adminsitration of (or even knowledge of) the sacraments. Abraham did not even have the Mosaic Law! They were accounted righteous (justified) before God for their faith. When we confess Christ, his perfect righteousness is imputed to us. And once gained, it is never lost.

    Baptism is the doorway to the Church, where we live out our new lives in Christ (sanctification). It is not the mechanism of salvation; that is by faith alone. That is bedrock doctrine.

    Hence the Solas of the Reformation: Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Christus, Sola Deo Gloria.

    EDIT: misc. editing. Apologies for the constant tinkering with the text.
     
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  19. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    @Ananias , while I share with you the affection for Reformational doctrine, I don’t believe you can support what you wrote by any writings of the Reformers themselves. The way you present these doctrines strongly resembles American evangelical revivalism of the 1900s. It mirrors enough Reformational language to resemble it to those who haven’t read the primary Reformational or Patristic sources. But it’s different enough underneath, that it crafts a new image of Christianity alien to what all the centuries of prior Christians had believed. You say you like the Puritans, but I’d hazard a guess that none of the famous Puritans would agree with your presentation of doctrine either. It just sounds like 1800s-1900s Charles Finney tent revivalism. So while I’m totally onboard with justification by faith, I’m not on board with your presentation of the doctrine here.

    Also; “the five solas”, like “TULIP”, is an invention of the 1800s evangelicals. I haven’t yet read a single Reformer who mentions a list of “the five solas” much less raise such a list as the banner of the Reformation. The fifth sola doesn’t even make sense. It was a list made up by 19th century writers and literateurs (five, the magic number, like the 7 sacraments of the Romanists); not by 16th century martyrs.

    I am on board with justification by faith, and scripture as the only revealed word of God; but I understand those as our Reformers did, not as recent revivalists did. Big difference.

    I love the Reformation, but I’m not in love with Revivalism.
     
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  20. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    This is a distinction without a difference. Neither the teaching of Jesus, nor Paul, nor James, indicates that faith is something ‘inner’ that is hermetically sealed off from the world of action. To have faith is to act faithfully. That is the point of the appeals to the example of Abraham. The faith/works dichotomy is a fiction when it is abstracted from the first century context of the question whether followers of Jesus had to convert to Judaism. The denial that the physical world has anything to do with salvation is basically Gnostic. Sola Fide does not mean that belief alone is necessary. That is a modern American perversion of Reformation teaching, and it is alien to the Anglican tradition.
     
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