Lutheran and Roman Catholic evangelism: we have sacraments that actually do something...

[If you're interested in the magazines-for-Christian-intellectuals scene, read on. If the scene makes you yawn, skip the next four paragraphs and start with the paragraph, "Let me call..."]

Before founding First Things, Richard John Neuhaus edited the Rockford Institute's Religion and Society Report and I was a subscriber. Then came the May 1989 nastiness when the Rockford bumpkins booted Neuhaus from his editorial digs in New York City. What became known as the "Rockford Raid" left Neuhaus shaking the dust off his captoes and moving on to found First Things. My favorite quote of the fracas comes from the Rockford side: "A lot of folks in New York aren't used to being judged by the Midwest." Rockford saying "no" to Manhattan was just chutzpah...

I stayed with Religion and Society Report for a time (eventually edited by Joe Brown), but also came in on ground level with First Things. For years I read quite a bit of it, but now not so much. First Things has become precious. Maybe it always was, but through the years my antibodies against all things precious have multiplied. If we're going to be faithful witnesses to the Kingdom of Heaven, we must not waste time talking to ourselves. Mutual admiration societies exist for mutual admiration—not the Kingdom of Heaven and the glory of God.

Normally, men who chose the academy over the church, scholarship over shepherding do so because they don't want to dirty themselves with life. They don't live; they discuss living. They don't fight; they discuss fighting. They don't preach; they teach. If Machen is the exception, Erasmus, Don Carson, Jim Packer, Vern Poythress, and John Frame are the rule. (I've benefited a good bit from, and promoted, the work of three of these five.)

Fighting or defending the faith (Jude 3) is what the father of "Machen's children" is known for. The rest of these men are known for their erudite irenicism. Or maybe their irenic erudition—it's hard to know which to put first. Anyhow, a reference to "Machen's children" today is a popular way for Reformed men to diss someone who follows in Machen's footsteps contending earnestly for the faith. With that warning about First Things (FT) out of the way...

Let me call your attention to this excerpt from a recent FT article titled, "Lutheran Evangelicals: Calvinism is a perennial Evangelical trend. Why not Lutheranism?":

The modal view of the sacraments in Calvinist churches are not actually Calvin’s views, but Zwingli’s views. Baptism is the outward sign of an inward grace; baptism itself does not confer that grace. Indeed, baptism is often understood to be akin to publicly confessing Jesus. It’s something that the baptized person offers to God, not something through which God confers something on the baptized. And the Lord’s Supper confers grace because while one eats the bread and sips the wine—er, I mean the grape juice—one remembers what Jesus did on the cross. One does not actually receive forgiveness and union with Christ by receiving Jesus’ true body and blood in the Supper.

Like their kissing-cousin Roman Catholics, Lutherans place the sacraments front and center in their evangelism. They appeal to other Christians to leave Biblical Christianity behind and become Lutheran, promising "We have sacraments that actually do something." This is the ploy of Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and other sacramentalists: "You better come on over to our side because our sacraments save you. You do want to be saved, don't you?"

It leaves me wondering whether such sacramentalists are Donatists? Do they believe the sin of those administering the sacraments corrupts the sacraments' ability to do things? Do they hold that sinful doctrine on the part of the pastor baptizing or administering the Lord's Supper trumps the efficacy of baptism and the Lord's Supper?

But let's move on.

Evangelical Reformed churches warn the souls under our care that "unless a man is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God" (John 3:3). This is heart religion and heart religion always magnifies dependence on the Holy Spirit. Before, during, and after liturgical formulations, orders of worship, albs, bells, a capella Psalter only, consubstantiation, the washing of water, and wine rather than grape juice, godly shepherds holding to Biblical doctrine never stop emphasizing saving faith.

Now if you were a Christian with a weak conscience, if you had a tendency toward fear and unbelief, which would you choose: a pastor who calls you to repent and believe the promises of God or a priest who tells you his sacraments actually do something?

Lutherans love Rome's old scare tactic: "You better come back to our churches because we're the only ones who give you sacraments powerful enough to save you." It's not enough, though, for them to speak of their sacraments and what they do. They attack the sacraments of Biblical churches, claiming the sacraments of Calvinist churches do nothing. Read again what the Lutheran says: he accuses Calvinist churches of having a "modal view" of the sacraments. Then he places in opposition two doctrines Calvinist churches have always believed at one and the same time—that baptism is an outward sign of an inward grace and that baptism confers that grace.

"To the contrary" says this Lutheran; "Calvinist churches believe that baptism is an outward sign, and thus they deny baptism confers that grace." Implicit in his argument is that baptism or the Lord's Supper being outward signs precludes baptism and the Lord's Supper from conferring grace.Thus he writes that, in Calvinist churches today (and I quote), "baptism is often understood to be akin to publicly confessing Christ."

Our dear Lutheran brother hedges his statement enough to allow us to drive a Mack truck through. "Often" understood. Not "always" but "often." "Understood." Not "confessed" or "preached" or "taught," but "understood." And "akin to." Not "proclaimed" or "declared," but "akin to." Not the straightforward "is publicly confessing Christ," but the tepid "akin to publicly confessing Christ."

Now stop and ask yourself this question: do these hedge words and phrases indicate our Lutheran brother simply wants to be careful to protect today's Calvinist churches from categorical denunciations? Or, to put it another way, do these hedges simply signal that our Lutheran brother wants to give Calvinists the benefit of the doubt, or do they accomplish something else?

You bet something else. These hedge words are the way our Lutheran brother implies that it is wrong to see baptism as "publicly confessing Christ." Reading what he writes, a member of a Calvinist church is likely to breathe a sigh of relief and think to himself, "Well, that's not how MY Calvinist church understands baptism"

To open the point up, what if I were to write about members of "Lutheran churches today"—that among them "baptism is often understood to be akin to publicly declaring the person being baptized to be saved?" Reading such a statement would lead the normal Lutheran man to think to himself that he doesn't believe baptism saves someone.

Back, then, to the Lutheran brother's words. Consider that Scripture itself indicates baptism is not "akin to publicly confessing Christ." Rather, it is the public confession of Christ. Concerning the public confession part of the construction, when our Lord was baptized, it was a public confession—a very public confession. And here is the way the Other Two Members of the Trinity responded to Jesus' public confession:

After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” (Matthew 3:16, 17)

The Apostle Paul declares this concerning baptism:

Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4)

This declaration is figurative. The man being baptized is not in the cemetery having dirt thrown on him. Rather, his baptism is his public confession of dying with Christ so he may live through Christ.

And what about the Day of Pentecost? Were 3,000 baptized privately?

And what about the Ethiopian Eunuch? He did not hide his faith in his heart, but he confessed it publicly through baptism. And this despite reasons he may have had to avoid this public confession:

Therefore, as (the Ethiopian Eunuch) embraced that willingly which he heard concerning Christ, so now he breaketh out with a godly zeal into the external confession of faith; neither doth he think it sufficient for him to believe inwardly before God, unless he testifieth before men that he is a Christian. There might many things have come into his mind, which might have kept him back from being baptized, lest that he should lay himself open to the hatred and rebukes both of the queen, and also of the whole nation. (Calvin on Acts 8:36)

Did you read that? The "godly zeal" of an "external confession of faith." Calvin says the Eunuch "testifieth before men that he is a Christian."

So if it's necessary and foundational in the baptisms of the Book of Acts, why does our Lutheran brother accuse those of us in Calvinist churches of the thought-crime of understanding "baptism be akin to publicly confessing Christ?"

On this theme of the Zwinglian Calvinist of our time understanding baptism to be a public confession, let's dig a little deeper.

Reformed sacramentology disallows private baptism because privacy precludes baptism serving as an "external confession of faith." It doesn't "testify before men."

As the Westminster Larger Catechism puts it:

Question 165: What is Baptism?

Answer: Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein Christ has ordained the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, to be a sign and seal of ingrafting into himself, of remission of sins by his blood, and regeneration by his Spirit; of adoption, and resurrection unto everlasting life; and whereby the parties baptized are solemnly admitted into the visible church, and enter into an open and professed engagement to be wholly and only the Lord's.

How does a sacrament whereby the parties baptized "are solemnly admitted into the visible church, and enter into an open and professed engagement to be wholly and only the Lord's" work when the church isn't present and visible?

But sacramentalists deny the connection between baptism and "publicly confessing Christ." In fact, sacramentalists and other formalists often claim that, in the administration of the Sacrament, the man to whom the sacrament is being administered isn't himself doing anything. This is the reason for this false dichotomy in our Lutheran brother's writing. In "Calvinist churches, 

(Baptism is) something that the baptized person offers to God, not something through which God confers something on the baptized.

You see the excluded middle, don't you? In any administration of the sacrament of baptism in which "the baptized person offers (something) to God," God is precluded from conferring "something on the baptized." Either the baptized man is offering something to God or the priest, standing in the place of God, is conferring something on the man being baptized. "One or the other" our Lutheran brother tells us. The next step is predictable.

Take away the necessity of the man's public confession of Jesus Christ and we're left with both Roman Catholics and Lutherans allowing, and often encouraging, private baptisms. Explaining their doctrine of baptism, this Lutheran web site states, "Baptisms were normally private matters 50 years ago in Lutheran congregations." Around the world Lutheran baptisms are still often private because Lutherans don't think "baptism akin to publicly confessing Christ."1

You see, it's not the man confessing anything. Rather, it's the priest, his church, and his water conferring that special "something" on the man. And let me tell you, his water isn't like the water of Calvinist churches. His water actually does something! His water confers something.

Years ago, I was talking with a professor of theology from Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. He had just converted to Roman Catholicism and was explaining the process of his conversion. While teaching at Reformed, he'd started attending Mass, he said, and "One day when the priest rang the (Sanctus) bells, I realized it actually WAS the body and blood of Christ." 

With that he stopped talking. Clearly he'd said all that needed to be said.

I waited for some addition or explanation, but he was done. There you had it, and now he was a Roman Catholic.

Whether they're Roman Catholic, Anglican, Reformed Episcopal, Lutheran, Christian Church/Disciples of Christ, or Federal Vision, this is the sacramentalist. The focus of his faith is earth rather than Heaven. He wants sacraments that are powerful, sacraments that actually do something. He's into himself and the magic tricks he tells you Scripture promises through his administration of the sacraments.

Concerning Simon Magus's baptism and the subsequent revelation of his hypocrisy recorded in Acts 8, John Calvin warns against those who "attribute unto the sacraments magical force":

It appeareth plainly, by this example of Simon that all men have not that grace given them in baptism, which grace is there figured. The opinion of the Papists is this, That unless mortal sin be the cause of it, all men receive the truth and effect with the signs. So that they attribute unto the sacraments magical force, as if they did profit without faith. ...the receiving of baptism did profit (Simon) nothing... (Calvin on Acts 8:13)

Does this mean Reformed sacraments don't do anything?

Well, I'm tempted to direct you to ask our Lutheran brother whether he thinks the sacraments of Calvinist churches actually do something? Or maybe we should ask him what spiritual efficacy the sacraments have in churches where the priest is not sinning theologically in his sacramentology that is lacking in Calvinist churches where the pastor is sinning theologically in his sacramentology?

Actually, though, there's a more direct method of getting at the question whether Calvinist churches believe sacraments actually do something. First, a couple stories.

We had a young man in our congregation several years ago who availed himself of little to nothing in our church's ministries. We were at lunch one day and he told me he was studying Rome's Baltimore Catechism. I wasn't particularly surprised since this man was proud and unteachable. To me, it was all of a fabric and pride was the key.

Probing a little, it became clear he did not want intimacy that involved any discussion of his own or others' sins with other believers. He was the perfect candidate for the proud man's formalism, so after trying to give him a pastoral warning, I watched over the coming months as he narrowed his choices to Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism. It ended up Lutheranism and he left his church, announcing to his wife's friends that "they" wanted "a church where the sacraments actually DO SOMETHING."

Another story.

A PCA pastor told me of a friend of his who left a PCA church for Lutheranism. The man was an academic whose wife was not a believer and my friend commented that this man converted to Lutheranism because he feared for the souls of his children and Lutheran sacramentalism reassured him concerning their eternal destiny in a way that Reformed sacramentology didn't reassure him.

The Roman Catholic and Lutheran teaching and practice of the Lord's Supper are superior to that of Calvinist churches because, when Roman Catholic and Lutheran priests do their thing, their bread and wine turn into the actual body and blood of Jesus. And you see, this is what you need to be saved. This is what your children need to be saved. This is what federal vision Covenant children need to be saved.

Jonathan Edwards's maternal grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, believed the Lord's Supper was a saving ordinance, and thus he extended the rest of New England's Halfway Covenant concerning the sacrament of baptism to the Lord's Supper, also.

Although he accepted this practice of sacramentalism under his watch for a number of years, the day came when Edwards's conscience could no longer tolerate it. In time, his reversal caused him to lose his call. He worked to reform the Northampton church according to Biblical and historic Reformed doctrine.

So what's the truth about the historic Reformed doctrine of the sacraments? Do we believe Baptism and the Lord's Supper actually do something?

Yes, of course we do. Start with what the Westminster Standards actually say. We actually believe what the Westminster Standards actually say the sacraments actually do.

If that's not enough, go to Scripture and see that Baptism and the Lord's Supper actually place souls under judgment. Sacraments never leave a man alone. They bless or they curse. Sacraments are means of grace or they're means of condemnation and judgment. Thus this warning from the Holy Spirit in 1Corinthians 11:

Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. (1Corinthians 11:27-29)

We could spend more time opening up what all true Calvinists have always believed the sacraments do, positively, but once we've read the above warning concerning what they actually do negatively, it's hard to imagine anyone of good conscience trying to smear Calvinists with the false accusation that we don't believe the sacraments actually do something.

Regardless of tribal affiliation, all formalistic religionists have at the center of their appeal their superior administration of the sacraments. They tell fearful souls that the principal reason they should switch to the Roman Catholic, Anglican-Catholic, Reformed Episcopal, Lutheran, Christian Church/Disciples of Christ, or Federal Vision church is their sacraments actually do something. Such arguments work wonders with the superstitious.

Lutheranism has always traded on its sacramentalism to distinguish itself from the rest of the Reformation, but the past thirty years have seen a shift in the willingness of Calvinist pastors to expose Lutheran sacramentalism. Reading straw men arguments like the one above printed by First Things, Calvinists jump all over themselves trying to win Lutherans' approval, hoping once their approval is won, they'll stop smearing us with the canard that we don't believe the sacraments actually do something.

Today's Lutherans work to suck in those who want sacraments that actually DO something, but aren't quite ready to give up their putative claim to having remained Protestant. Such marks find formalistic sacramentalism very enticing, but they want very much to stop just short of the Pope, Mariolatry, legalism, infusion, works of supererogation, the treasury of merit, and all Rome's anathemas against justification by faith alone.

My dear friend Pastor Nate Harlan puts the finest of points on it, asking Reformed sacramentalists to describe what is that something that baptism actually does and what is that something that Jesus actually did, on the Cross?

Sacramentalists won't answer his question. They try to escape the horns of their dilemma by trotting out  the language of "mystery." But Nate isn't bashful. He declares that, on His Cross, Jesus definitively and completely and irrevocably finished the work of redemption for all those souls His Father had given Him.

Which is to say, either the substitutionary atonement did it all, or the substitutionary atonement did most of it and what remains to be done will be accomplished through baptism and the Lord's Supper. Either God's decrees trump man's administration of the sacraments, or man's administration of the sacraments trumps God's decrees.

However, Scripture is clear. Within the household of God, circumcised foreskins never trump circumsised hearts. If a grazed woodlot is neither good woodlot nor good grazing, the halfway covenant is neither good covenant nor good halfway. The Lutheran priest who promises his baptism or Lord's Supper actually does something, and that something is eternal salvation, is lying through his teeth. Wise souls will run for their lives!

Let's end with Calvin:

For, as we distinguish the sign from His Truth, so it is good to distinguish the minister from the Author, lest mortal man challenge that which is proper to God. Man hath the sign in his hand; it is Christ alone who waters and regenerates.

* * *

But if any man trusting to this testimony do make baptism a cold spectacle, and void of all grace of the Spirit, he shall be also greatly deceived. For the Holy Scripture useth to speak two manner of ways of the sacraments. For because Christ is not unfaithful in his promises, he doth not suffer that to be vain which he doth institute; but when as the Scripture doth attribute to baptism strength to wash and regenerate, it ascribeth all this to Christ, and doth only teach what he worketh by his Spirit by the hand of man and the visible sign. Where Christ is thus joined with the minister, and the efficacy of the Spirit with the sign, there is so much attributed to the sacraments as is needful, but that conjunction must not be so confused, but that men’s minds, being drawn from mortal and frail things, and things like to themselves, and from the elements of the world, they must learn to seek for salvation at Christ’s hand, and to look unto the power of his Spirit alone; because he misseth the mark of faith, whosoever turneth aside even but a little from the Spirit unto the signs; and he is a sacrilegious person who taketh even but an inch of Christ’s praise, that be may deck man therewith. (Calvin on Acts 11:16)

Dear soul, don't turn aside from the Spirit of God to the signs. To do so is sacrilege.

  • 1. At this point, Calvin would answer the natural objections of anabaptists that, if public confession is central to baptism's meaning, no one should baptize infants. All through his works Calvin answers this objection, so instead of spending time answering it here, I'll leave readers to check out Calvin's answers on their own time.
Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and fifteen grandchildren.


"Either the substitutionary atonement did it all, or the substitutionary atonement did most of it and what remains to be done will be accomplished through baptism and the Lord's Supper." This is a helpful reminder to keep us humble and to give us peace knowing that what Christ did was sufficient.

I am struck by how many thinkers, including those with whom I agree in great part, stoop to fratricide in these matters.

And I'm also struck by the fact that I know one of the current editors at Rockford, Scott Richert. We tried (and failed) to do a conservative newspaper back at Michigan State with a few others back in the day. I'm not accusing him of fratricide, BTW.

Funny, when I read "baptism is often understood to be akin to publicly confessing Jesus" I took a mis-turn that I don't think Mr Lutheran wanted me to take by thinking "if only"!

The sinners prayer or the altar call have taken the place of baptism as the Christian initiation rite in so many churches.

Either sacramentalism destroys souls, or there's nothing to worry about and we should patch things up.

Starting with Rome.


Calvin on his understanding of the Lord's Supper and Melanchthon: "If he declares that I deviate in the smallest from his idea, I will immediately submit."

from "Ecclesia Reformata: Studies on the Reformation" by W. Nuenhuis

I'm reminded of what one reformed pastor said about 10 years ago:

"If baptism really unites us to Christ, then let's just swim the Tiber and kiss the ring already."

V. Although it is a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance,[13] yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated, or saved, without it:[14] or, that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.[15]

VI. The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered;[16] yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongs unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in His appointed time.[17]

Pastor Bayly:

As someone who knows a bit about what you're talking about here, I can agree with much of what is said here. These articles that ask "Why are evangelicals more attracted to Calvinism?" are too cute. We've had 450 years to test these things out. Calvinism is a comprehensive world and life view that attempts to integrate the whole Bible for all of life. Lutheranism truncates the Bible by insisting on a manufactured Law/Gospel paradigm. Much of the purpose of the church and Christian life are rendered useless because any preaching of transformation, giving people things to do, is condemned. No wonder young pastorally inclined men tend to run to Calvinism instead.

Calvinists change societies. Protestant work ethic, federal governance, free markets, human rights. Lutherans tend to go along to get along. Cheap grace yields a cheap worldview that puts up with Hitler while Bonhoeffer rails against cheap grace and tries to kill Hitler.

The men who have been the most consistent in opposing the Law/Gospel paradigm have been...wait for it...Federal Vision men. Read the Joint FV statement. On the other hand, those pushing the Law/Gospel paradigm in the Reformed world have tended to be the FV's fiercest critics.

Read Jim Jordan's essays on worship. You will quickly come to a few conclusions. One of them is that what he is trying to do is not sacramentalism nor is it Lutheranism.

Dear Ben,

Thanks for your comment. I don't know James Jordan. I understand there are men who know him through some blogging/commenting/forum thingy they keep private. Like Bill Gothard's requirement that his disciples not show their red book to anyone who had not been to his Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts.

Better names to mention in connection with the promotion of Lutheranism today would be Jeff Myers and Peter Leithart and the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.

Hope that clarifies things, dear brother.


I appreciate this blog a lot. I have a comment and question.
First, I cannot provide a citation or quote, but It has been my understanding that Luther himself, if not the Lutherans of today, held that the sermon, the ministry of God's word to God's people, was to be the high point of congregational worship. If so, that would mean that communion is not. I have not worshipped in a Lutheran church more than perhaps once, when I was a very young Christian, but I have at times briefly (mostly decades ago) worshiped in a rather high-church (I guess) Anglican church where the entire service was seemingly about communion, even sung, with some strange-to-me things involving endlessly repeating "Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy", called a Kyrie Elaison", and with not much of a sermon, either in duration or exposition. I have since worshiped a few times with friends at a conservative Anglican church where I was happy to see some good teaching too!

The question: I've never seen a good "simple English" explanation of how communion is any more a means of grace than some good personal time in the Word or prayer, or perhaps privately singing some good hymns to the Lord. Yet I've not seen those things described as "means of grace" in the same sense as the things the Lord instructed us to do, e.g., the sacraments/ordinances. So how, simply put, are they more means of grace?


Christ have mercy is the Engkish translation of Kyrie Eleison. It's nor repeated endlessly, although it did seem that way sometimes when I attended Anglican churches :-)

It is repeated 9 times. Christ have mercy x3, Lord have mercy x3, Christ have mercy x3 to represent the members of the Trinity. It is also used in Orthodox and Catholic worship, I believe.

I found it interesting in Bible Study last week when the LCMS pastor who leads it expressly said that the Word is the primary means of grace and that the Lord's Supper and Baptism are secondary means of grace below the Word.

Very encouraging, David, although we can speak of the sacraments being superior to preaching in that they make physical distinctions that preaching cannot.


Yes, all of the ordinary means of grace work God's will. And the pastor's teaching went beyond that but I thought the centrality of the Word would be encouraging.


It is interesting to hear a Calvinist condemning Lutherans in such frank terms. But like most Calvinists I have come across in PCA and RPCUS circles, you don't really understand Lutheran Christians. Your citation to an ELCA source is about as valid as a Lutheran citing a PCUSA source in describing what the PCA or RPCUS believes. Why not cite a truly Lutheran source regarding baptism such as the LCMS, WELS, ELS? Do you have a citation to a Confessional Lutheran arguing for private baptisms? As a Confessional Lutheran myself, I have never even heard of a private baptism. Baptisms are public, before the congregation ( unless an extreme condition exists, such as when a person seeking baptism is dying).

Describing Lutherans as "kissing cousins" of RCC is rather childish. Lutherans call the system of the papacy Antichrist, while the Presbyterians shy away from this. As I recall the PCA cannot even agree that Freemasonry is wrong, much less stand up to the papacy.

Also, I suggest you read the Book of Concord, as it is the confession of the Lutheran church. A good introduction to Lutheran theology in English is John Theodore Mueller's Christian Dogmatics. Read what the Lutherans themselves say about issues.

>>you don't really understand Lutheran Christians.

Dear Mr. Blakenship,

My brother, David, attended a LCMS school and I ministered in a small town in Wisconsin where WELS was the prevailing religion. So yes, David and I have some considerable degree of understanding of Lutheran Christians, including the most conservative ones. We know well the difference between ELCA, LCMS, and WELS. My wife and I had the new WELS pastor and his wife and family over for dinner and had him tell us he and his family would not join in our table prayer because it would be a "mixed confession."

Then, you say that quoting an ELCA source is illegitimate while going right on and acknowledging that emergency baptisms are practiced by whatever brand of Lutheranism you belong to.

My point is made. All Lutheranism is shot through with sacramentalism and those pastors and churches who warn against it are the exceptions that prove the rule.


Would you be so kind as to spell my name correctly?
ELCA is about as Lutheran as PCUSA is Presbyterian or RCA is Reformed.
If a believer is in the hospital and dying, but has never been baptised, would you deny him the sacrament?
If so, why?
What do you define as "sacramentalism'?
The author mentions Bonhoeffer. He was a Lutheran. As was Carl Goerdeler, and others in the Widerstand against NSDAP. Where were the Reformed?
I think your complaint is against the neo-romanising Federal Vision, and something called R2K. I know what the former is, but don't know the latter. Perhaps you should focus on them rather than Lutherans. The "pope" could not get rid of us, the reformed couldn't do it, despite the power of the Prussian government via the Prussian Union, and I don't think the Presbyterians will be able to do it.

Apropos of fellowship practices, perhaps the Presbyterians could have avoided some of the problems they have today, such as in the PCA, by avoiding pietists.

"Brand of Lutheranism you belong to"...I am a member of Providence RPCUS in Wytheville. Despite having been in a Presbyterian church for years, my Lutheran views have not changed. I was LCMS, but there is no confessional Lutheran church in this area. We have a good pastor and wonderful people in our congregation, but I differ with them on several matters of doctrine.
You end your reply with "Love," what do you mean by this?

The Bonhoeffer reference I think has to do with another article on this site.

Dear Mr. Blankenship,

What I mean by "dear" and "love" is that God made you and every reader who comments in His Own image and likeness and has commanded me to love my neighbor: "Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law" (Romans 13:8).

Back in the day when e-mail was just starting, I committed myself to treating online correspondents with the same respect that had always prevailed among all men with hard copy correspondence. My letters began with "dear" ending (most times) with "love," so my online letters are the same.

It's a discipline I commend to everyone, but especially Christians.

Concerning sacramentalism, please use the search box at the top. It's been a frequent theme, here.



Thank you for spelling my name correctly. It is a humble surname, but is my father's legacy.
Apropos "love", your childish "kissing cousins " remark is inconsistent with love. As you haven't really addressed any of my points, I must conclude we are not likely to have a conversation.
Christ's Blessings!

Dear Mr. Blankenship,

About spelling names, if I kept track of the number of times my name was mispelled, my life would be shortened by a decade. I'm sorry I misspelled your name. I meant no indignity to your father and appreciate your desire to honor him. As for the humility of the name, do you know the meaning of Bayly?


About your repeated accusation of childishness, anything but. When I state that modern Lutheranism is Roman Catholicism's kissing cousin, I am a pastor warning the sheep away from both.

Sacramentalism destroys souls. Eternity hangs in the balance between circumcised foreskins and circumcised hearts.

May God bless you this Lord's Day.


Apology accepted regarding the name.

You did not answer my question regarding administering the sacrament of baptism in the case of a dying person in hospital.

Luther, Gerhard, Chemnitz, Walther, Mueller, Sasse, McCain and Harrison are united in their belief regarding the Sacraments ans the preaching of the word. It has nothing to do with "modern Lutherans" v. Luther.
"Kissing Cousins"? Luther was standing up to the pope when Jean Chauvin was in diapers.

As Luther said, you have a different spirit.

Actually Luther told Zwingli he had a different spirit. After reading Calvin's treatise on the Lord's Supper Luther said he was a "good soul." Luther could tell the difference between Calvin and Zwingli even if modern Lutherans sometimes struggle with the matter.

David Gray:
"Modern" Lutherans? Who would they be? You do realise that the Confessional Lutheran church ( inlcuding Luther) has confessed the same beliefs regarding the sacraments from the 1500's to the present. Do you mean ELCA?

I mean post-Book of Concord Lutherans. While Luther lived there was no gulf between Calvinists and Lutherans. Did you know Calvin was part of the team that defended the Augsburg Confession at Worms?

You are wrong. Calvin denied that Christ was present after both natures in the Sacrament. Luther believed in this real presence. They also differed on, baptism and some other things.

Sorry Keith, I didn't say Calvin and Luther had identical positions. Rather I noted, correctly, that Luther didn't judge his differences with Calvin to be problematic in the way his differences with Zwingli were problematic. That is why Luther spoke positively of Calvin and had friendly relations with Bucer. That was not true of Zwingli.

What do you say to Calvin being on the team that defended the Augsburg Confession at Worms? What do you say to Luther's comments that Calvin was a "good soul" after reading his treatise on the Lord's Supper?

As a Lutheran in a Reformed church this would be useful for you to know just as it is useful for me as a Calvinist in an LCMS church to know.

As i understand it, Luther and Calvin never met. it is also my understanding that they never corresponded. Luther was about 26 when Calvin was born.
Are you referring to the Diet of Worms, or the Apology (Defense) of the Augsburg Confession ? The former was in Worms in 1521. The latter was in Bavaria in the city of Augsburg in 1531. This document is a very good statement regarding the Lutheran view of forensic justification. I believe Calvin signed an altered ca. 1540 Augsburg Confession. This was not the confession signed by the Lutherans at Schmalkald. Your LCMS church may have a cornerstone that says UAC, i.e. Unaltered Augsburg Confession. The alteration was the deletion of the Lutheran doctrine of the Real Presence of Jesus in communion.
I think Luther only mentioned Calvin once or twice of which there is a record. My understanding is that he had a favourable impression of the Frenchman. My personal impression of Calvin is generally very positive, especially on the issue of forensic justification. He also is usually concise when he writes.

I think Calvin met Melanchthon at Worms in 1540. They were present along with others at the Diet of Regensburg, but Luther rejected what was proposed there.

It is interesting that your situation is the mirror image of mine. My membership in an RPCUS church has only been tolerable because we have a good pastor, and wonderful people. I have found a lot of ignorance among Presbyterians regarding Lutheran beliefs, and the supposed responsibilty of Lutheranism for the rise of NSDAP. But no one has called me an unbeliever. I do read attacks on Lutherans from Presbyterians occasionally, but I think their complaint is about something called R2K.
I asked my pastor about it today, and have some understanding of it now. Apropos of this view Flacius Illyricus ( Lutheran) wrote the Magdeburg Confession, which sets out a doctrine of interposition.

You are correct that Luther and Calvin never met. Luther did read two of Calvin's works, at a minimum, and possibly more. At least Luther read Calvin's Short Treatise on the Lord's Supper and his Reply to Sadoleto. Luther did comment approvingly on both items. That is particularly worthy of note because obviously one of those dealt directly with Calvin's understanding of the Lord's Supper. Can you imagine Luther making positive comment on such a work from Zwingli?

Calvin was at Worms from 14-18 January 1541 prior to the Diet of Regensburg. When Calvin worked at Strasburg he willingly operated under the authority of the original Augsburg Confession, not the variata, and advised other ministers that they could sign it without scruple. Calvin arrived at Strasburg in 1538 and the variata had not yet been produced. Ironically while he like the variata better in its description of the Lord's Supper he thought it inferior in matters dealing with election.

I think it is true that Reformed folk in general are not overly familiar with Lutheran theology but on the other hand in the LCMS you'll find folks referring to all non-Lutheran protestants as Reformed covering all the ground from Benny Hinn to Charles Hodge. It strikes me that Lutherans worry more about the Reformed than the reverse. Many Missouri folks still get excited about the Prussian Union but most Reformed would have no idea what they're talking about.

I wish Lutherans were, in a sense, more Lutheran or Lutheresque if you like. Luther could easily distinguish between Calvin and Zwingli. Someone like Paul McCain has publicly said they have the same doctrine on the Lord's Supper. Whether Calvin was right or wrong he clearly taught something much different than what Zwingli taught. Or at least Luther clearly thought so.

Just to be clear the version under discussion at Worms was the variata.

The forced Prussian Union is important to some in LCMS because their ancestors were among those oppressed by it.
By signing the UAC one was confessing the Real Presence. AC Art. X. Is it your understanding that Chauvin continued to confess that Christ was present in communion after both natures in the years following his signature?
I don't think Lutherans are all that concerned about Reformed, except for the historical event of being forced by the government in Prussia to compromise their doctrine. Most Lutheran laity don't know Hodeg, Dabney, Thornwell, Bavinck, Vos , Knox, etc. because these people played no role in the formulation and continuation of Lutheran Christianity.

I think Calvin ( why do we call him Calvin, that was not his name) is quite different from Zwingli, and the Lutherans certainly recognised this.

Here is an interesting article from WELS

Here is what Augsburg says:

1] Of the Supper of the Lord they teach that the Body and Blood of Christ are truly present, and are distributed 2] to those who eat the Supper of the Lord; and they reject those that teach otherwise.

I don't see why Calvin would object to that.

Here is what the Belgic Confession says:

To represent to us
this spiritual and heavenly bread
Christ has instituted
an earthly and visible bread as the sacrament of his body
and wine as the sacrament of his blood.
He did this to testify to us that
just as truly as we take and hold the sacrament in our hands
and eat and drink it with our mouths,
by which our life is then sustained,
so truly we receive into our souls,
for our spiritual life,
the true body and true blood of Christ,
our only Savior.
We receive these by faith,
which is the hand and mouth of our souls.
Now it is certain
that Jesus Christ did not prescribe
his sacraments for us in vain,
since he works in us all he represents
by these holy signs,
although the manner in which he does it
goes beyond our understanding
and is incomprehensible to us,
just as the operation of God’s Spirit
is hidden and incomprehensible.
Yet we do not go wrong when we say
that what is eaten is Christ’s own natural body
and what is drunk is his own blood—
but the manner in which we eat it
is not by the mouth, but by the Spirit
through faith.

Now bear in mind what Martin Chemnitz said in his work on the Lord's Supper:

What is the nature of this sacramental eating of the body of Christ in the Supper and how does it take place?” If the union or presence of the body of Christ with the bread is physical, consistent with some kind of natural or rational or secular mode of presence, then it is right to demand that we show the evident and manifest meaning of sacramental eating. But the union or presence is not physical in the sense of our secular reasoning. Therefore we can show more easily what the sacramental eating of the Supper or body of Christ is not rather than what it is. That is to say, it is not physical in the sense that it consists of the chewing, mastication, swallowing, and digesting of the substance of what is eaten, because the presence of Christ’s body in the Supper is not a natural presence in the sense consistent with the ordinary term.

David: The differences between the Lutherans and the Reformed regarding the Lord's Supper have not been resolved in over 400 years. The WCF says that Christ is present, but only spiritually. I think that a statement that Christ is present after both natures is a fairly Lutheran view.
Did you get a chance to read the article by the WELS author that I linked to?

On Sunday, I asked my pastor about baptising a believer who was dying in the hospital. he said he would take an elder with him, and some church members, and after a brief sermon and prayer, he would baptise the person.
He is a Westminster grad, 1970's, but did not seem familiar with either Bayly brother.


I skimmed the article The WELS article has a couple of errors, one of which I'd already addressed. Historical errors tend to undermine the article.

Do you believe the spiritual is less real than the carnal? I'm sure Richard Dawkins would think so but I wouldn't think you would believe so.

It seems odd that I like Chemnitz statement more than you seem to.

No, i like Chemnitz. What gives you idea that i don't?

My point regarding the presence of Christ physically and spiritually is that this has historically been the division between the Reformed and the Lutherans.

Richard Dawkins? No, I don't like him or share his views.

What is your view of the Prussian Union? Good or bad?

I think the Prussian Union was bad but of no real relevance to anyone living save as an object lesson of something to avoid.

I think the significance of the forced Prussian Union is that when given the chance, some Calvinists just cannot refrain from oppressing Lutherans. Although I think Lutherans and Calvinists are quite alike in some ways, I would leave a country where Calvinism was the established religion.

My purpose in pointing out that the Calvinists and Lutherans have not resolved their differences in doctrine regarding the Lord's Supper after four centuries is simply to emphasize that the differences are irreconcilable. It is a fool's errand for anyone to think they have the ability to resolve these differences today. The Calvinist simply does not think Biblically in this regard: rather, he permits rationalism to dictate his views.

Any consensus has always involved Lutherans compromising the Biblical doctrine of the Lord's supper in some way. Rationalismus, nein danke!

When you say set spiritual against physical ( you used the term carnal, perhaps for a reason) this goes precisely to the issue, Christ's two natures are indivisible.

By the way, I read on another blog that some Calvinists are subordinationists. Do you know if that is true? My RPCUS pastor is not.

Tim Bayly: What is your view of my Pastor's statement regarding the course of action he would take in the event a dying believer in hospital desired baptism?

"I think the significance of the forced Prussian Union is that when given the chance, some Calvinists just cannot refrain from oppressing Lutherans. "

If that is true what lessons should Calvinists conclude from Melanchthon's grandson being imprisoned for 12 years on charges of crypto-Calvinism? Hopefully something less silly than concluding Lutherans will oppress Calvinists whenever circumstances permit.

>My purpose in pointing out that the Calvinists and Lutherans have not resolved their differences in doctrine regarding the Lord's Supper after four centuries is simply to emphasize that the differences are irreconcilable.

To which the proper response is to point out that those differences were only actionable following Luther's death when smaller men made bad decisions. In the first generation of the Reformation the differences were the same but were not viewed as irreconcilable.

Silly? I qualified it with "some". Minimise what was done all you like, but the fact of Calvinist oppression of Lutherans, with the full authority of the Prussian state, remains.

I have to say that I simply cannot understand what you mean when you say that the differences were not "actionable". In my profession"actionable" has a certain meaning. What does this word mean to you?

Do you acknowledge that Lutheran views of the Sacraments and Calvinist views are different?

Is it your position that Lutheran doctrine of today's LCMS, WELS and ELS does not conform to the Lutheran Confessions? If their doctrine does not conform, how does it deviate?

Tim Bayly: Do you have a response to my question?

>>Do you have a response to my question?

Dear Mr. Blankenship,

As you see above, I responded to you earlier and don't have the time to take it further. If it's your hypothetical emergency baptism in a hospital you're wondering about, I do not think that your pastor's answer is wrong. Yet, outside sacramentalist denominations, it's not usual to baptize newborn infants in the hospital.


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