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Confessional Lutheran theology, hagiography, philosophy, music, culture, sports, education, and whatever else is on the fevered mind of Orycteropus Afer

10 November 2008
  Dear Reverend Spurgeon
An Open Letter to the Late Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Regarding Babies & Bathwater and the
Embracing of Paradox

C. H. SpurgeonThanks to the ever-vigilant Martin Luther (Doktor), I discovered one of your 21st Century disciples blogging an excerpt from The Soul Winner: Soul-Winning Explained, thereby continuing to propagate your misleading, false, and possibly soul-destroying teaching that Baptism does not, in any way, cause regeneration or bring salvation. In his post entitled Spurgeon on Infant Baptism — an Abomination! (exclamation point, his), Adrian Warnock exposes your disbelief and rejection of the plain words of Christ and His holy apostles, as recorded in Sacred Writ.

One would think that after one hundred plus years of your assuming room temperature, portions of your egregious and unbiblical thinking would also flatline. Granted, by your preaching and writing, God may have used you to bring many people to the Faith. Yet by your continuing departure from Scripture and the ancient Church regarding infant baptism, you and your followers have also banned and barred countless of the "least of [Christ's] brothers" from entry into His kingdom.

It seems that even some modern followers of credobaptismal theology were distraught with the vigor and directness of the text cited by Warnock. This, in no way, contributes to my reaction. Au contraire, I appreciate straight talk, even when proclaimed in a state of emotional agitation. I enjoy satire and revel in revealing my own opponents' foibles, so why should I deprive you of similar pleasure?

No, I instead reject, dismiss, and despise these words because they are not built by the Holy Spirit upon Scripture's foundation. Instead, you stand in a long train of great thinkers who have allowed their own reason and strength to supplant the perfect and holy Word and will of the Almighty. I detect in this writing a special venom directed toward the Roman Church, certain of whose doctrines seem to cause you extreme distress. While I, too, reject some of Rome's teachings, I — with them, my fellow Lutherans, and other orthodox Christians throughout the ages and around the world — confess the Nicene Creed, including the salvific regeneration expressed in our confession of "one baptism for the remission of sins."

Baptismal FontBecause you reference the sainted Doctor Luther in your diatribe against the "Popish owls," I must remind you that the same Luther decried the magisterial use of reason in theology, naming such unchecked free thinking a "whore." This same Luther categorically rejected credobaptism, anabaptism, and any other "baptism" that denied baptismal regeneration or despised the notion that even the littlest ones could hold Spirit-created and sustained saving faith in Jesus Christ.

You correctly note that, according to Scripture, Luther taught salvation by grace through faith in Christ (cf. Ephesians 2:8). However, this same Luther held fast to all of the sacred Scriptures and thus also believed and taught that infants should be brought to the font so that through Baptism, the Holy Spirit might give them death to sin and new life in Christ (cf. Romans 6:3-4) through saving faith in the One who suffered and died on their behalf.

Justification by grace through faith in Christ is not restricted to Ephesians 2:8 but is Scripture's central teaching. This, Dr. Luther proclaimed: iustificatio articulus stantis vel cadentis ecclesiae; i.e., justification is the article by which the Church either stands or falls. Remember that the apostle Paul also wrote, "When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)"

You and I agree with Ephesians 2:8-9, which confesses that salvation is completely "by grace ... through faith" and "not a result of works, so that no one may boast." You, however, have trouble with the blessed apostle Peter, who wrote, "Baptism ... now saves you ... through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 3:21)" If you accept this as God's true, unshakable word while continuing to confess salvation "by grace through faith," you must seek a reconciliation of these passages that's beyond human intellect.

Jesus and Little ChildrenPlease allow Scripture to guide mediate your reason and thus convince you that even though there are human actors and earthly elements, Baptism is not man's work done for God but God's work done to (and for) man  ... and woman  ... and child. Only after we are justified by grace and have received saving faith are we equipped "for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)"

Along with you, I disavow ex opere operato sacramental theology predicated by crass sacerdotalism. However, you miss the mark when you say, "Priestcraft, let us hope, is an anachronism, and the sacramental theory out of date." You rebuke those bringing their little ones to be baptized, calling the practice a "beautiful piece of magic, which excels anything ever attempted by the Wizard of the North." Yet you ignore what happened when our Lord's disciples similarly rebuked people for bringing their youngsters to Him. "Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.' (Matthew 19:14)"

Did you not study logic during your school days? When the Lord bends our thinking to His wisdom, He compels us to accept His syllogism:

A) Only believers in Christ are forgiven and made possessors of eternal life (Ephesians 2:8-9), while

B) children may possess citizenship in heaven's kingdom (Matthew 19:14),

C) therefore, children are capable of belief because Jesus says that they can posses the kingdom.

Because you cannot or will not see the hand of God through the eyes of faith, you focus only upon the hands of priests and pastors, none of whom can lay claim to perfect holiness. However, it isn't the "priestcraft" of any earthly priests but the doing of our own High Priest. He, through His Church, most often using the hands of His called pastors washes away our sins. When children, even tender babes are brought to be baptized, Christ claims these poor little wretches for Himself. These tiny sinners, even the newest of newborns, with David could lament their godless natures: "I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. (Psalm 51:5)" Yet, because they are baptized, they are saved.

BassookaI pray that those who stubbornly cling to your intellectualized and anthropocentric interpretation of Baptism would have their eyes opened by the Holy Spirit working through God's Word. I ask that He would lead them to understand that saving faith and intellectual assent are as different as bassoons and bazookas. In other words, they must realize that while a cursory glance provides similarities, close examination compounds the differences. Most of all, I pray that "well-meaning" Christians would cease throwing barriers between babies and Baptism, stop teaching that Baptism is a human work or a divine ordinance, and then confidently confess that Baptism now saves. Period. Amen.

Remember, C. H., for almost two thousand years, Christians (including you!) have proclaimed Holy Baptism. Somehow, you've forgotten or ignored this simple truth: Baptism's holiness comes not because individual Christians do it nor because Christ's Church does it but because Christ does it — albeit in His holy Church and through His holy people — solely by His holy Word and the Holy Spirit.

Mr. Spurgeon, don't forget what happened when a boy's distraught father brought his son possessed by an unclean spirit to Jesus. The man wavered between hope and doubt. "[He said,] 'If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.'" In response, "Jesus said to him, '"If you can"! All things are possible for one who believes.' Immediately the father ... cried out and said, 'I believe; help my unbelief!' (Mark 9:22-24)" All things are possible, even baptismal regeneration, even saving faith in newborn children. You, however, confessed, "This aqueous regeneration surpasses my belief." Were you still living, I would gladly complete the petition: "Help Charles Haddon's unbelief."

Sincerely yours,

Orycteropus Afer, MDiv +

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