Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Gay Marriage

Bible believing Christians recognize that so-called "Gay Marriage" is a self-contradicting phrase. The truth that marriage is a heterosexual union between one man and one woman was established by God's creation. And by that creation the natural law--even with regard to marriage--is still inherited by all humans, even though it has become corrupted by sin. The Apostle Paul writes about this specifically in the last half of Romans 1 and in Romans 2.

 The Public Debate

In the public discussion about homosexual marriage, especially in Minnesota where the issue has come to the ballot, the popular press has made a large and false impression about how unified homosexuals are in their support for legalizing homosexual marriage.

I write as a man who has friends that I care for deeply, who are homosexual, some of them have been my friends since childhood and college. And they are not united in support for homosexual marriage.

Homosexuals are not united on this issue. In fact it has become a point of public irony in the homosexual community that so many self-titled "advocates of gay marriage" have proclaimed themselves advocates without even bothering to find out what homosexuality means to the less than 4 percent of the population that described themselves as homosexual in recent polls and the U.S. Census (data).

Homosexuals are not united on the legalization of gay marriage and there are prominent voices in the homosexual community who go so far as to mock those who have presumed to advocate for gay marriage on their behalf.

John Sandemann of the Australian Bible Society wrote an opinion piece on this issue on June 29, 2012 titled "What sort of marriages do homosexual people want?" after the Sydney Writers Festival titled "Why Get Married When You Could Be Happy?" In that post he transcribes a small bit of the relevant dialogue as follows:

Early in the Sydney Writers Festival discussion, Masha Gessen expressed the ambivalence of the panel towards marriage.
Masha Gessen: “It’s a no-brainer that we should have the right to marriage but equally I think that it is a no brainer that the institute of marriage should not exist.” (cheers from the audience)
“That causes my brain some trouble. Part of the reason that it causes me trouble is that fighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we are going to do with marriage when we get there.”
“Because we lie that the institution of marriage is not going to change. It’s going to change and it should change. And again it should not exist. I don’t like taking part in creating fictions about my life. That’s not what I had in mind when I came out thirty years ago. I have three kids who have five parents, more or less.”
Shun Wah asked: “People in civil unions in Australia enjoy the same legal rights as people who are married so is it largely a symbolic battle?”
Dennis Altman: “Yes I think it is largely a symbolic battle but I want to make a couple of points:
Firstly I should say I signed the petition because I do not want Cardinal Pell to control the laws in Australia. (Cheers) Okay that is the easy applause line. What worries me about this debate is there always seems to be the assumption that somehow magically we all have long-term relationships.
One of the things that for me was important about coming out as gay was that we came into a community that accepted a whole range of different relationships, different possibilities, and the fact that lots of people are not in primary relationships or that they are in primary relationships which really are quite different to those of the heterosexual norm.
And the constant emphasis on same sex marriage as the goal, the language of this is the civil rights issue of our time, it seems to me further marginalises and sends very dangerous signals to people who are not in long-term relationships and who may not want to be.”
After an interchange with Jeanette Winterson on whether there are more important issues:
Altman argues “As I said at the beginning I would like to see the law changed, okay? I would like to see that very unpleasant line in the marriage act where a celebrant is required to say “marriage is between a man and a woman” removed and then I would like to see the entire Marriage Act repealed.
Shun Wah: This is a topic about marriage: it is not really about sex.
Altman: I am fascinated by how reluctant the people who argue vehemently for same sex marriage are to talk about sex. The original concept of marriage in the western world of course was based heavily on the idea of monogamy really so that the man could be guaranteed that the children were his.
Now I am going to speak now as a gay man: one of the things about gay male culture is that it is not a monogamous culture. All the evidence we have suggests that monogamy is a myth. There are many longstanding gay relationships. There are virtually no longstanding monogamous gay relationships. I happen to think that this is a good thing. I happen to think that this puts sex in a much better perspective than the concept that we are being fed.
But I do get very anxious when I am told that people want to have a marriage that is exactly the same as the ones that their heterosexual sisters and brothers have. What their heterosexual sisters and brothers are signing up for – whatever they do in practice – is a belief in life-long monogamy.
There is a level of hypocrisy in that – that is built into the marriage ceremony. That, I do not want to see replicated.
Winterson: Are you saying that the hypocrisy is built into the religious ceremony or in the concept of marriage altogether?
Altman: I would love to have the people who are out there arguing for same sex marriage say “lets be clear: marriage is about primary emotional commitment to another person and it doesn’t mean I won’t **** around.

Winterson: You are right about the gay male culture not being monogamous and why should it be, and the whole troubling question of monogamy. Whether it is natural … I think what you expose is something which is very uncomfortable for the male heterosexual or homosexual. Heterosexual men would prefer to screw around if they could, I think, mainly.
Gessen: And so would many heterosexual women.
Winterson: I think there is a difference. One of the things I worry about is that we are going to have an over-masculinised culture, in that we are always going to take the values of the male as the dominant values.
I am not sure that women necessarily feel this way. Which is not about anti sex or less sex but I think it is about a deepening, rather than endlessly separating, love and sex.
That is a much bigger argument about whether these separations are actually good for us as human beings. It might be good for our libido, it might be good for our self-esteem, but whether they are good for us as human beings I don’t know….

Shun Wah:  If we change marriage so it is not monogamous, 80 per cent of television and movies will have to change their plots.
Altman: There is always the second series.
Winterson: In the gay male community, having sex with someone who is not your partner is not a signal that anything is wrong with your primary relationship. But very often it is a signal of that both in the heterosexual community and wider. It’s not about desire, it’s about a breakdown of intimacy or some wish not to put the work in there.
Look, if we all had sex with someone else tonight it would be much more exciting than if we went home and had sex with our partner, probably. But that does not mean it is a good idea.
I often worry about the way the gay male culture segues into the general obsession in the general culture, that says “don’t have any ties just go out there and have a good time”.
Benjamin Law:  Thinking of one couple I know, they are Australian, they spend most of their time overseas but often they’re apart from each other. This gay male couple has built up rules for each other. They are married – I think they got married in the UK. If you go past a certain amount of time apart it is assumed things will happen. But they don’t talk about them. And you don’t get emotionally involved.
Those are the ground rules. One of the biggest advocates for gay marriage in the States is Dan Savage who is very much for gay marriage but is not a huge fan of monogamy.
I think those different options need to be discussed. And maybe homosexuals can teach heterosexuals about that as well.
The recording of the session is available at the Australian Radio National website. The recording is graphic and explicit with foul language, but it is useful to listen to this recording to understand how gay marriage is viewed in the homosexual community. The recording itself is at this link. The recording shows the psychological intimidation used in the advancement of this issue.


The Real Issue?

So, what, then, is the real end-game of voting to allow homosexual marriage?

Voting means that the person who casts his or her vote is willing to have those who disagree fined, imprisoned, or even killed if they refuse to comply.

Allowing for same sex marriages means that any Christian congregation which might disagree with same-sex unions should suffer penalties under the law. That is, congregations or individuals who defend the institution of marriage as God created it can be fined, imprisoned, or even killed if they refuse to acknowledge and support a homosexual marriage.

Of course, the opposite is true as well. If marriage is legally defined as one man and one woman, then those who violate that law would be subject to the same.

Homosexuals already have legal protection under the MN Human Rights Act for inheritance, visitation, and next-of-kin issues. Marriage provides no advantage legally in any of these areas in Minnesota. So why insist on mandating that gay marriage be legal?

The only power that the state does not have is to fine, imprison, and put to death those who object to homosexuality. Under MN HRA, and EEO citizens who object to homosexuality are punished for discriminating against homosexuals, transgender, etc., in business, housing, employment, access, banking, and many other areas. The only areas that have not been required to approve and support homosexuality are the family and the church.

Permitting the legalization of homosexual marriage would require the family and the church to approve, support, and defend same-sex unions.

God's Law defines what real love is: both love for God, and love for one's neighbor. Any sexual union outside of what God defined as marriage in His Word  is not love. It might feel like love, people may defend it as love, but it is not.

Christ suffered for the sins of lust, fornication, adultery, rape, incest, masturbation, sodomy, polygamy, everything that violates His divine institution of marriage. When a person claims that such things are not sin, but acceptable, that person is saying he or she does not want the forgiveness given by the life, death, and resurrection of the Biblical Christ.

If the Church and our congregation of believers is to truly love those who are entrapped by such sins, we must speak the truth in love that those behaviours, those laws, and those political positions are sin. And we must be willing to bear the shame of their mockery when they have the upper hand: to bear the cross of Christ in a pagan and sinful world. We must pray for their repentance and deliverance from their sin. And we must live humbly as citizens of this earthly kingdom, work, vote, and speak in such a way to show our utter need of redemption from our own slavery to sin by pointing to Christ alone.

Time to Take a Second Look?

(From the Evangelical Lutheran Synod web site, by Pr. Paul Fries) 

Here in Minnesota, we will be voting on a “marriage amendment” this November.  If passed, it will define marriage in the state constitution as between one man and one woman.  There is a great deal of debate with very heated arguments often the result.  I drove by an intersection with a house on one side of the street with a “Vote No” sign on the lawn and the house on the opposite side with a “Vote Yes” sign. There is also a television commercial running showing a happy heterosexual couple with children with a church and political background (both of which would normally be opposed to same-sex “marriage”) telling us that it’s time to “take a second look” and to vote “no” on the amendment.  What should a Christian do?

For a Christian, the answer is quite simple:  God has already defined marriage as between one man and one woman.  No matter what our government does, God’s definition cannot change.  But what about people who are not Christian?  Can’t they decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong?  Well, no.  The Bible also tells us that God’s Law is written on the hearts of all people—our consciences.  We all know, because of our consciences, that all sexual relationships outside of marriage are wrong.  This not only applies to homosexuality, but also to heterosexual couples living together.  If our consciences tell us it’s wrong, why are so many people overlooking these sins and even promoting them?  The Bible also tells us that we are able to harden our hearts, both against our consciences and against God’s Word, refusing to believe either one.  And, unfortunately, that is what has happened and is happening throughout our nation.

Many are claiming all kinds of outrageous thoughts and theories about marriage.  So let’s clear some things up.  These are the facts:
  1. Marriage is NOT a right.  It is not guaranteed by God.  It is not guaranteed by our nation’s laws.
  2. God has defined marriage.  Marriage IS “the lifelong union of one man and one woman into one flesh, entered into by mutual consent and promise.”  (ELS Catechism) “‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?  So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:5-6)  There is no other definition of marriage.
  3. The Bible does NOT condone, as some would suggest, polygamy, incest, rape, etc., as definitions of marriage.  The Bible does contain accounts of all these sins and uses them as examples of sin and the consequences of disobeying God.
  4. It is NOT acceptable for a Christian to hold any other view of marriage other than the Biblical definition of marriage.  As Christians, we live our faith according to God’s Word alone.
  5. The Bible is NOT just a book written by men. It IS the very Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit and correct in all that it teaches. The Word of God may not be changed to fit changes in a particular society’s morality.
  6. We recognize that not all people accept the Bible as the true Word of God.  However, God has also given us all consciences and human reason, which, unless we close our hearts to them, will agree with God’s Word in every teaching of the Law.
  7. Churches, church leaders, and others who teach that any form of marriage, except between one man and one woman, are directly opposing God and His Will.  They are sinning.
  8. If the government eventually allows other forms of “marriage,” God’s Word will not change.  Christian churches will continue to teach and practice the Biblical definition of marriage, which is the only definition.  “We must obey God rather than men.”  (Acts 5:29)
  9. We are NOT all created in God’s image.  Only Adam and Eve were made in God’s image—in perfect righteousness and holiness.  Since the Fall into sin, all people are born in the image of man—spiritually dead and unable to save ourselves.  In this natural state, we ARE all equal in God’s eyes—equally sinful and condemned to Hell.
Those are a lot of negative statements, aren’t they?  Well, let’s look at the positive.  God, in His Word, tells us that He loves us.   God sent His Son Jesus Christ to be our Savior.  Jesus lived the perfect life God demands of us.  He didn’t give in when others tempted Him.  He didn’t have the lust-filled thoughts that we experience.  He didn’t waver when the society and religious leaders around Him told Him He was wrong.  He clung to absolute truth, to God’s Holy Word—His own Word—and proclaimed it without apology. Jesus was willingly tortured, beaten, and killed to take the punishment we deserve for our sin.  He took our punishment and gives us the reward He earned—forgiveness and eternal life!  And to show that He approved, our Heavenly Father raised Jesus from the dead, just as He promises to raise all believers!

Can we as Christians, knowing what God’s Holy Word says, knowing what our Savior suffered for us, knowing the promises of God, “take a second look” at same-sex “marriage?”  Absolutely!  Let’s look at the inspired, inerrant, Holy Word of God!  Let’s read how God defines marriage!  Taking a second look—reading and studying what the absolute truth of God’s Word tells us—we will see that marriage is between one man and one woman.  Take a third and fourth look!  It won’t change.

-Rev. Paul Fries

Monday, October 22, 2012

Hallowe'en: A short history

There is a lot of new mythology about Halloween that has been invented to claim that Halloween is a pagan holiday. It is not, and it never was a pagan holiday.

Where Did Halloween Start in the Christian Church?

In the first three centuries after Christ's resurrection, the lives of the martyrs of the Church were commemorated on the day and in the place where they were killed. 
There were so many who were killed because of their faith in Christ during those centuries. Throughout the Christian Church different days were set aside not only for each martyr, but a special day for all Saints.
The earliest reference to a day being dedicated to the commemoration of All the Martyrs and All Saints of the Christian Church comes from the 2nd century. The document is titled "The Martyrdom of Polycarp." Polycarp was a Christian killed because he would not deny Christ. The document says: 
Accordingly, we afterwards took up his bones, as being more precious than the most exquisite jewels, and more purified than gold, and deposited them in a fitting place, whither, being gathered together, as opportunity is allowed us, with joy and rejoicing, the Lord shall grant us to celebrate the anniversary of his martyrdom, both in memory of those who have already finished their course, and for the exercising and preparation of those yet to walk in their steps. (Chapter 18) [Emphasis added]

Later, a Christian Bishop named Ephraim the Syrian mentions a common All Saints' Day in 373. In 379 St. Basil of Caesarea chose a day when the churches of his bishopric would honor the memories of all Saints known, and unknown, alive or in heaven. Later, John Chrysostom mentions a common day of memorial for the Saints in 407 AD. 
In the year 609 or 610 Pope Boniface IV established a date for All Saints' Day on May 13th. And later, in the early 700s AD, Pope Gregory III changed the date to November 1st. Decrees like this took some time to propagate from Rome to the more remote areas where the Church was found. But the change in date had nothing to do with any pagan practices. Pope Gregory IV extended the celebration on this day to the entire Western Church in the early 800s. And again, the change took time as it spread from Rome. 
The point is this: a common day for commemorating the Saints has been around throughout the Christian Church from very early times. And the fact that it falls on November 1st today has nothing to do with paganism.
OK, so what does this have to do with Halloween? In the Bible the day begins at sundown or evening. This is why we have Christmas Eve. Halloween is All Hallows' Eve', that is All Saints' Evening. Halloween is the beginning of All Saints' Day starting at sundown on October 31st
These days we have “Trick or Treat,” costumes sometimes too gruesome to describe: witches, goblins, werewolves, vampires, zombies, Lady Gaga; Jack-O-Lanterns, skeletons, spooky sounds, grave stones, candy and a celebration of gore and all that is un-Holy.
Many of the Christian Churches in the Reformed traditions claim that Halloween is a pagan celebration. Very often they do this by referring to Neopagan and Wiccan writings. And there are many in the Neopagan and Wiccan communities who have tried hard to claim Halloween as an ancient pagan holiday that had been stolen by the Christian Church.
Don't ever expect truth from Neopagans and Wiccans. They already live in a fantasy world created by their own fakelore
The claim is that the old folklore demonstrates where we got Halloween. But folklore does not support the Neopagan or the Wiccan claims about Halloween. Instead they depend on fakelore: invented, and fake, pretend folklore, like Pecos Bill and the song “Follow the Drinking Gourd.” 
The typical claims in current sources are that Halloween come from “ancient Celtic practices, Catholic and Roman religious rituals and European folk traditions.” With respect to the origins of All Saints' Day these claim are false. With respect to the modern re-paganizing of Halloween, the Neopagan version of Halloween doesn't really come from ancient pagan sources. It comes from modern sources that pretend to be old but are not. These modern sources are simply fiction.

Doesn't Halloween Have Its Origins in Samhain?

Neopagans and Wiccans like to claim that the source of Halloween is the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced Sow-in). There are three basic problems with their claim. 
1) The celebration of All Saints' Day didn't originate in Ireland or any other area populated by Celts or their descendants. 2) None of the days on which All Saints' Day was celebrated had anything to do with any Celtic holiday. 3) The celebration of All Saints' Day in Celtic regions is documented to be older than the documented celebration of Samhain.
So let us look at each of these three claims:
1) In order for the Neopagan and Wiccan claim that Samhain is the origin of Halloween to be true, then Halloween and All Saints' Day should have started in Celtic areas. But we've already seen that All Saints' Day was celebrated in Syria as early as 373 A.D, in Caesarea in 379 A.D., and in Constantinople (under Chrysostom—modern Istanbul) by 407 A.D.
All Saints' Day, and Halloween didn't start in the Celtic countries. But it did take some time for the declarations of Rome to reach distant Celtic areas like Ireland.
2) In order for the Neopagan and Wiccan claim that Samhain is the origin of Halloween to be true the particular day chosen should have some significance to the Celts and Samhain. But here we run into some serious problems. According to the best sources, Samhain was a Lunar festival of harvest. That means that the day of Samhain can vary up to a month in difference from any Solar year day. Compare, for example, the wide variety of days upon which Easter can take place. When sources claim that Samhain was October 31 to November 1 in the modern Solar Calendar they are being dishonest and disingenuous. They are intending to deceive the reader. Due to the differences between lunar and solar dates, on the average  Samhain would take place exactly on October 31st only once in about every 30 years. 
When the reader adds into this the fact that the Western Calendar changed over from the Julian to the Gregorian at different times in different places, the reader can better understand how artificial the Neopagan and Wiccan claims are about Samhain. The Christian Church didn't get Halloween/All Saints' Day from the pagans, the pagans are trying to claim that Christians stole from them. But the Neopagans and Wiccans cannot even get their calendars straight. And they are hoping that the reader doesn't notice how weak and embarrassing their claim is.
3) In order for the Neopagan and Wiccan claim that Samhain is the origin of Halloween to be true Samhain they should be able to prove that Samhain is older than All Saints' Day. 
But, in fact, the opposite is true.
We have a manuscript from 843 A.D. where the Irish Christian Bishop Óengus of Tallaght wrote about the celebration of All Saints' Day. It was celebrated in the Spring of the year at that time and in that place. The Decree of Pope Gregory IV had still not reached Ireland so that All Saints' Day should be celebrated November 1st
But the earliest-ever-mention of Samhain in Irish folklore doesn't come until the 10th Century (Ronald Hutton's 1996 book Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain). There is no mention of Samhain outside of Ireland until centuries later.
These, then, are the facts. 
Samhain comes from the 10th Century A.D. and is a newer invention. All Saints' day is older than Samhain. All Saints' Day came from the practice of honoring the Christian Martyrs in Israel, Turkey, and Syria as early as the 2nd Century and later. 
All Saints' Day and therefore Halloween originated outside the Celtic sphere of influence and had nothing to do with what the Neopagan and Wiccan claims are about its origin. 
In fact, the newer holiday, called Samhain, was a Lunar holiday. This means that it could be celebrated on any of 30 or so days in Autumn of a given year depending on when the harvest moon was recognized in Ireland. And very, very rarely did this moon happen on October 31st. This simple truth cannot be emphasized enough.
Any book or website or article that claims that the ancient Celts celebrated Samhain on October 31 is perpetrating a lie. Modern Neopagans and Wiccans invented their own calendar through the 1970s and 1980s and they chose Oct. 31 to be the day for Samhain. It was a move on their part to put forward the false claim that Halloween started in paganism. 

Why Would the Non-Christians Want to Undermine This Holiday?

All Saints' Eve (Halloween) and All Saints' Day have a special place in the commemoration of the Christian Church because of the Reformation. It was on October 31st, Halloween, that Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the church at Wittenberg, Germany. It was on that date he chose to challenge the corruption in the official church about the notion that salvation in Christ could be bought with money or works. All Saints are saved by Grace, through Faith, revealed by God's Word in Christ.
Halloween, October 31st is Reformation Day. On October 31, 1517 the Church of Christ began to return to the authority of Scripture alone over the traditions and will of man. It was the day that the Church began to return to salvation by Faith in Christ alone over the works of human will and deeds prescribed by humans. The day that the Church began to return to salvation by Grace alone, rather than the effort of the individual or that individual's reliance upon the efforts of the saints who had gone before him. It was the day that the Church returned to reliance upon Christ alone and not upon self.
It should not be surprising that Satan and the World have gone to such extremes to defile Halloween with anything that would distract Christians and the unbelievers from Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia and Solus Christus ( Scripture Alone, Faith Alone,  Grace Alone, and Christ Alone).

Halloween Traditions:

In this world some traditions have become the mainstay of Halloween. Though these traditions are not necessarily a problem by themselves, they have been claimed by the Neopagans and Wiccans as evidence that Christianity is a fraud and newcomer that has replaced the “Older” so-called “Truth”. But they lie.
The Haunted House started in the early 1970s. The first records of Haunted Houses were from Cincinnati, Ohio where the Jaycees (Junior Chambers of Commerce) introduced the first Haunted Houses as a way to keep kids entertained on Halloween.
So which is older, All Saints Day starting in the 2nd Century or Haunted Houses starting in the 1970s?
Jack o'Lanterns are an American invention from the mid 1800s. Ireland and Britain had older traditions of carving vegetables into lanterns. But those traditions are not ancient. Historian David J. Skal writes:
Although every modern chronicle of the holiday [of Halloween] repeats the claim that vegetable lanterns were a time-honored component of Halloween celebrations in the British Isles, none gives any primary documentation. In fact, none of the major nineteenth-century chronicles of British holidays and folk customs make any mention whatsoever of carved lanterns in connection with Halloween. Neither do any of the standard works of the early twentieth century.
(see this and other helpful references cited at The Scoopie)
It was in 1837 that the term “Jack o' Lantern” first appeared as a term for a carved vegetable lantern. Previously the term referred to the man or boy a town hired to keep the street lamps lit through the night. The pumpkin was used with the cornucopia as a fruit that was displayed throughout fall harvest time in America as a sign of God's providential blessing.
There is a lot of folklore about the Jack O'Lantern, but it is fakelore invented to create a fictional scary history for the Jack O'Lantern. But which is older? All Saints' Day or the Jack O'Lantern? 
Trick or Treating is very popular in America and several other countries. In the Middle Ages (1300s to 1500s or so) there was a practice where children or the poor would go from door to door to beg. In some places these beggars would sing or perform in order to get gifts of money or food from householders. While this happened every day of the year, because these beggars had to eat every day, they were particularly active on holidays. Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, and All Saints' Day were special days when children and adults would go from home to home singing hymns and carols and begging. A good source for what these people would sing is the Oxford Book of Carols.  
In Shakespear's 1593 play The Two Gentlemen of Verona the character Speed accuses his master of "puling [whimpering or whining] like a beggar at Hallowmas." That's our All Saints' Day, November 1st
Wearing costumes on Halloween is first known in Scotland in 1895 and in the United States in 1911. The earliest use ot the words “trick or treat” is from 1927 in the United States. In the early 20th Century there were thousands of postcards made with Halloween themes, but none of them showed “trick or treating” until the 1930s.
So what is older? All Saints' Day or Trick or Treating?
Halloween, Reformation Day, All Saints' Day is a very special day of the year for the Christian Church. We commemorate all saints past, present, and future with the confession that we cannot save ourselves with our own works, no price we could ever pay would be good enough. But Christ has paid for the whole world. And all believers in Christ, and these are the Saints, will be raised on the last day to eternal life. Reclaiming Halloween means knowing where it comes from, why the day was established, and the historical significance it holds for the Christian Church. Satan and the world are always willing to undermine and steal anything that is of value to the confession of the truth of Scripture. Let us not fall prey to the lies. 

Enjoy Halloween! Enjoy Jack O'Lanterns, Enjoy Trick or Treating. But confess the truth!

Saturday, October 06, 2012

The Baptist: a conversation

English: John the Baptist baptizing Christ
English: John the Baptist baptizing Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
B: "Well, we don't really agree with you. You see, we don't add to the Scriptures. We only use the original King James Version. And we don't add the idea that Baptism can save."

Me: "That's very interesting. I also believe that Scripture shouldn't be added to, and I would say also that it shouldn't be subtracted from either. That's why I believe that baptism does also now save us, not the removal of the filth from the flesh but the answer of a good conscience toward God, by the resurrection of Christ. Just as He says in His Word."

I didn't give him the reference. I took him at face value when he stated that he didn't add to God's Word, the basic premise of that statement was that he knew God's Word. And before this point in our conversation he had claimed that he reads the entire Bible every year.

But he missed it the reference. He didn't know the passage.

B: "You can't add to God's Word like that."

Me: "Like what?"

B: "The Bible doesn't say that Baptism saves."

Me: "Isn't 1 Peter 3: 21 in the King James Version? Those are the word's I quoted."

Here he started to look a bit unsettled.

Me: "Even more, I believe that everyone who is baptized into Christ were baptized into His death. Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into His death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the Glory of the Father, even so we should walk in newness of life."

Another, uncertain, puzzled look. Like, maybe he wasn't sure if I were quoting Scripture or just stating things in my own words.

B: "But baptism doesn't do anything. You can't add those ideas into the Scripture."

Me: "Let me see if I understand what you are saying. You read the Bible every year. Right?"

B: "Yes. And I believe what it says."

Me: "So when Peter and Paul said the words I just quoted about what God does through Baptism, then you believe it? I mean, when Peter says that baptism saves, and Paul says that baptism unites us with Christ in His death and resurrection, you believe what those words say plainly right there without adding to them or subtracting from them?"

B: "But baptism doesn't save. You can't add that to God's Word."

Me: "But all those who are baptized into Christ have put on Christ. That's what His apostle says in Galatians 3:27. In context Paul is explaining that the Galatians cannot be saved by the outward observance of the Law, that God makes no distinctions between Jew and Gentile. Rather God bestows faith in Christ on both Jew and Gentile through the gift of Baptism."

B: "But God's Word never says that children can be baptized."

OK, this was a change of direction. A distraction. I think he wanted to reestablish himself and feel more in control of the line of argument he was trying to make.

B: "That's why we have a dedication for the children instead of baptizing them."

Me: "So, which passage in Scripture tells you that you should dedicate children?"

B: "Well, children aren't really able to have faith until they're a bit older."

Me: "So you shouldn't strive to become like one of these little ones who believe in Christ? That's what Christ specifically tells us to be like in Matthew when the disciples asked about who would be the greatest in heaven. How do you explain Timothy who Paul writes, believe from his infancy, the Greek there is specific about the age. Or about John's reaction in the womb of his mother?"

B: "Well we don't deny that God can do special things in certain cases. We just don't add to the Scriptures."

Me: "I believe that baptism is a gracious water of life and washing of regeneration as St. Paul says in Titus 3 'But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.' Notice that He says that He saved us through baptism, that washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. No where does he forbid the baptism of infants. Rather the baptism of infants is already shown in the households baptized in the book of Acts."

B: "I know that Lutherans will claim that Cornelius' household means children also, but it doesn't mention children. We don't add to Scripture."

Me: "That's interesting, because the word 'Household' means everyone that the head of house is responsible for: his wife, children -- even infants, his slaves, and employees who are under his care. How is it adding to the Scripture to read the words as they are written and understood from context? It seems more like an unwillingness to trust what God actually says. How do you think people are saved?"

I tried to say this as nicely and politely as possible. I didn't want his frustration to turn into anger. I wanted him to think about what God's Word actually says about Baptism and about faith.

B: "Well, after serious and sincere reflection a person needs to give his heart to God. It needs to be genuine repentance."

I thank God for the words of Bo Giertz in his novel The Hammer of God for this next bit:

Me: "What would God want with such a vile and defiled thing as our hearts? We'd have to be more pure than St. Paul who admitted that no clean thing dwelt in his heart. Doesn't Christ's Apostle John say that we are not saved by the will of man, and that we didn't choose Christ, but He chose us? If faith is not possible for a child because it is an act of the will (if I understand you correctly-please correct me if I misunderstand) then all those who die in their sleep are doomed to eternal damnation, all the mentally incapable are likewise doomed. It would serve no purpose to preach to them if the source of conversion is their own will. But faith, in Scripture, is not an act of the human will, it is the gift of God. Surely you remember Ephesians chapter 2?"

B: "Well, yes, faith is a gift, but you need to really be genuinely repentant. And you need to use your reason because faith doesn't go against reason."

Me: "Two things: First, how can you ever be sure you've repented enough? Second, aren't you familiar with 1 Corinthians chapter 2 where Paul plainly teaches that our reason is so corrupt that it cannot even see sin without the enlightening power of God through His Word? There he says 'These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

I continued: "It seems like you are saying, and please forgive me if I am misunderstanding--it seems like you think a person can make his own choice to be saved even though God describes our utter inability to do anything like that with words like 'You were dead in your trespasses and sins'. And from this death and inability he made us alive. He tells us specifically that this is His gift to us, the gift of faith is His to give. And He tells us how He gives it through Baptism when He writes, 'Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.'"

 B was very frustrated, but not angry. The topic changed to travel, the snow storm. I wished him and his family safe travels.

You see, it was his brother's funeral. In the sermon I did spend a short amount of time on how God had called his brother to faith through baptism, and we need to trust God's promise. It's one of those great ironies of Church history that those going by the name Baptist have no faith in Christ's written Word about His baptism and what He says He does by this Means of Grace. Our conversation was actually much longer and had more detail. But I can only recall the main flow of it and some of the main points. 

Funerals are a great opportunity for evangelism. I pray for the dead man's brother. I pray that he can some day actually believe that He is forgiven only for Christ's sake and that he is clothed in Christ's righteousness through the power of God's Word in Baptism.

For someone so concerned about not adding to God's Word, he didn't seem to really know it very well. And he seemed to have no hesitation in ignoring those parts of God's Word that disagreed with his own theory about how he can make himself righteous by "really repenting."

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