Infant Baptism & Martin Luther

So I had known that one of the distinctions between Luther and the Radical Reformers (Anabaptists, etc.) was that the former continued to support infant baptism although it is not found explicitly in scripture, while the latter insisted that baptism required faith and that faith required an adult’s self-determination.  I had not, however, known precisely why this was so.

As it turns out, Luther’s support for infant baptism coheres with his insistence on sola gratia.  First, God’s work is done by man in baptism (in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit), and a very significant work it is, unlike “putting on a new red dress.”  Second, baptism confers an “inexpressible treasure” and if Christians tended to run all over trying to buy indulgences, should they not take seriously the obligation to learn to appreciate God’s gift offered freely?

And it is the gratia of this gift that makes it appropriate for babies, according to Luther, precisely because they cannot believe.  If baptism is dependent on a person’s belief then the import of the sacrament is distorted, making it the work of man and not God.  A child is not baptized because of its faith, but because of God’s promise.  The child will spend a lifetime coming to grips with the gift conveyed in baptism, but he or she cannot say that it was earned through faith!

Beyond this, it seems to me that Luther had some different ideas about the functions of baptism than we Latter-day Saints do.  His views, it seems to me, are aligned with those of Paul while ours seems closer to Luke’s.  I should really get out of my chair and go find that new Gospel Essentials manual and look it up, but I’m too lazy right now.

Might be a good project for tomorrow, though, if it continues to snow like this!

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Mormon Archipelago

January 2010
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Contact Poor Rustic at:

poor.rustic AT gmail.com

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