Hoagies & Stogies: Baptismal Regeneration

Hoagies & Stogies: Baptismal Regeneration is now in the can, and all kinds of guys have told me they thought it was the best one yet (check out this review)! Thanks especially to Court for stepping in as interim braumeister while Mike Hess had to be out of town. Thanks also to Jack Attack for bringing his recorder for backup, because I forgot I started my recording, and then in the middle of my opening statement “remembered” to turn it on, which actually turned it off, which I did not discover until the Q&A! Jack didn’t start recording until after the moderator’s statement, but that’s no loss because I pasted the full text below.

Here are the .mp3:

For further examination, you could look up Understanding Four Views on Baptism, in which Lutheran, Reformed (and Baptist and Church of Christ) theologians all state their views and interact with each other.

If you want to read about the Lutheran view of Baptismal Regeneration, here are some resources:

And here are some resources from the Reformed side:

And here’s my opening statement:

Hoagies & Stogies is a debate fellowship primarily by and for Reformed men. So, Reformed men, have you ever asked yourself, “OK, so Luther started the reformation, so why aren’t we “Reformed” just all Lutherans?” Recently WSCAL professor R. Scott Clark summarized “the various areas of genuine disagreement … between reformed confessionalism and Martin Luther” as “baptism, the supper, and the theory and practice of worship”. Well, about a year ago, Hoagies & Stogies: Communion invited a Lutheran in (Pastor John Kent, right over here) to hash out our differences over communion. In 2007, Hoagies & Stogies: Exclusive Psalmody dealt with the RPW. So by the end of tonight, we’ll have Baptism taken care of, and I’ll get in touch with the Lutherans to let them know we sorted it all out (or John, maybe you should talk to them?)

You might recall, from last year’s H&S on Communion, that the Reformed position of real, spiritual presence in communion stands between an under-realized, mere memorial (or no presence) anabaptist view on the one hand, and what we consider an over-realized Lutheran doctrine of real, physical presence in communion.

This time around, we have a nearly parallel debate centered on the other sacrament, baptism. On the one hand, there is the historically novel position of baptism only for those who are already saved (by evidence of profession of faith). This position will not be addressed in tonight’s debate. And on the other side of the Reformed from the Baptists, we have the Lutherans. Reformed and Lutherans agree that infant children of believers should be baptized, but differ as to why. The Lutherans maintain that baptism causes regeneration in the subject; as Peter says, “Baptism now saves you“. Luther’s Small Catechism asks and answers: “What does Baptism give or profit? It works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.” This position is known as Baptismal Regeneration.

The Reformed thus draw fire from both fronts — from baptists who think we’re pretty much catholic because we baptize babies, and from Lutherans who think we’re pretty much baptists because we deny that our baptized babies are necessarily saved. Rather, in WCF 28.6, we confess that

The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; 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.

We also confess that, although baptism is very important, “grace and salvation are not … inseparably annexed to it”. Rather, the community of the baptized constitutes a visible church, but the invisible church includes only those members of the visible church whose call the Holy Spirit makes effectual by working faith in them, thereby uniting them to Christ — and the invisible church includes even a few elect that are saved through faith outside the ordinary means. (Note that the Lutherans have a similar terminology to our visible/invisible distinction, which will undoubtedly come up in our debate tonight; This is the church militant vs. the church triumphant — a division that cuts through time at the 2nd coming, rather than visible/invisible distinction, which cuts through the church at all times).

So speaking first tonight, setting for the Reformed position on baptism, we welcome Dave Okken, ordained OPC minister. This is his first H&S, because since before the inception of H&S, he has been a missionary evangelist in Uganda. And for the Lutheran side, we invite John Bombaro. John has an MTh from Edinburgh, an MDiv from Cambridge, and a PhD from University of London. Nowadays, John is Sr. Parish Priest at Grace Lutheran Church, San Diego, he’s a faculty member in the Theology and Religious Studies Department of the USD, and a regular contributor to the Officially Favorite Magazine of Hoagies&Stogies, Modern Reformation.


17 Responses

  1. Indeed, the discussion was quite powerful from the Lutheran perspective. Of course, the basic presupposition of the effecacy of infant baptism meant the Reformed position would be incapable of winning the day.

    Once one accepts baptism without repentance, evidencing regeneration, there is no roadblock to sliding all the way to the Lutheran position. How one gets past Paul’s words “repent and be baptised” is beyond me!

    Since there is not ONE instance of infant baptism in Scripture, I believe that swallowing that tenent led the Reformed debate into a wall. Fr. Bombaro helped push from behind quite effectively. His claim that Jesus wanted the children to come unto Him is correct but mis-applied. Jesus did NOT baptise them. The Reformed guy was handcuffed in rebutting that error.

    There is much more. I strongly urge you to read John MacArthur’s writing on this subject. He is firm and (I believe) correct on this subject.


    THANK to all who organized the H&S event. These gatherings are unqiquely informative and fun.

    • Since there is not ONE instance of infant baptism in Scripture

      I’ll give you thousands: 1 Cor 10:1-3. But all that has been hashed out elsewhere on this blog and all over the interwebs, which is why credobaptism was ruled out of scope for this H&S, and I don’t see a credo/paedo debate in H&S’s future.

      the basic presupposition of the effecacy of infant baptism meant the Reformed position would be incapable of winning the day

      It seems you missed the whole point; the Reformed do not presuppose efficacy of infant baptism, if the promise exhibited in baptism is never received by faith. If you want to see a Reformed view of baptism that is always efficacious, check this out…

  2. He got around Peter’s (not Paul’s) “repent and be baptized” with “well, there we have a mystery. Calvinists like mystery so there you go. You’ve got mystery”.

    He also got around it right from the beginning by objecting to Dave O. appealing to the exceptional case, namely, adult baptism, rather than the rule, namely infant baptism. Apparently he’s forgetting that these days, 99% of all people baptized are adults. Remember, Bambaro was not asserting that it’s a Lutheran baptism that regenerates, he’s saying that even a Pentecostal baptism regenerates. So, there at least, he correctly sidesteps the Donatist heresy.

    • This reply is for Bruce Settergren and Dan Greenblat: Thank you men for your comments. However, I do not recall the quote above “well, there we have a mystery. Calvinists like mystery so there you go. You’ve got mystery.” It looks like you may be speaking interlocutor for me, Bruce. Rather, what I did say was that Jesus accomplished perfect repentance for us when he, who was without sin, underwent John’s baptism of repentance in order to fulfill all righteousness for us (Mark 1.4; Luke 3.3, Matt 3.13-15). Repenance, Dan, is not a condition that we fulfill in order to merit or make salvation possible. It is a condition perfectly fulfilled by Christ (not us) and gifted to us with faith in the forum of salvation: the Word of the Gospel and the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. No, there was no need to go around repentance when Christ himself represented us with a repentance that availed before the Father and, like His righteousness, is imputed to us for our justification.

      • Hi John, I remember you brought this concept up when we were talking after the debate, and I still don’t get it. Christ’s righteousness imputed to us makes total sense, because he was perfectly, intrinsically righteous. But without sin, I don’t see how Christ can truly repent. Rather, I see Jesus at baptism triumphing through the water-ordeal due to sin. And of course, I am on board with the reformed concept that although faith and repentance are obviously both gifts of a gracious, sovereign God, they are gifts that are “worked in us” by the Holy Spirit (SC30).

  3. Oops. I forget that the RCC’s baptism numbers (large) and the Methodist’s baptism numbers (not as large) have to be added in there. So, make that 99% some other, smaller, number. Not enough to marginalize adult baptisms, though.

  4. OK, so I looked at the offered posting by RubeRad and it said (in part):

    “It is not until God’s effectual call regenerates and brings faith that the subjects of baptism are united with Christ in his resurrection (WCF 28.6: “The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered”); in the meantime, they are united with Christ only in his death — “dead in their trespasses”.

    Therefore, baptism does NOT regenerate as Fr. Bombaro argued? Assuming you are right, why would we baptise infants except as a mere and quaint ritual which carries no effectual call? Either Bombaro is correct or the Baptists have it right. The Reformed are in an odd in-between space of “maybe it is and maybe its not but we will cover our bases anyway.”

    I do not find this position compelling or convincing. Neither do I find it Scriptural. I would more readily accept Fr. Bombaro’s concrete position than the murky version posited by the Reformed.

    The obvious outcome of the H&S discussion bears ample evidence for the former. Fr. Bombaro’s exposition was largely unchallenged and more weakly rebutted. Why?

    Anyone care to become a Lutheran on this issue? (HINT: Not me)

    • Therefore, baptism does NOT regenerate as Fr. Bombaro argued?

      Correct. We are not Lutherans, we are Reformed, and we do not believe that baptism regenerates.

      Assuming you are right, why would we baptise infants except as a mere and quaint ritual which carries no effectual call?

      Because it effectually makes them members of the visible covenant community — as God commanded for infants to be initiated into the covenant, and never cut infants out of his covenant. Baptism is the sacrament of initiation, communion is the sacrament of renewal (and which biblically depends on profession of faith).

  5. […] latest Hoagies & Stogies debate has just been posted online and this time around it is on Baptismal Regeneration. I’ve not yet listened to this discussion between a Lutheran and a Reformed minister, but […]

  6. […] Hoagies & Stogies: Baptismal Regeneration […]

  7. Thanks for posting this! I’ll be around making pithy comment hither and yon.

  8. How would this incident figure in to the whole discussion? Redneck priest gone wild?

  9. […] Grace Lutheran is pastored by Rev. Dr. John Bombaro (my Lutheran friend from Hoagies & Stogies: Baptismal Regeneration). The theme of the conference was “Incarnation: For Us and For Our Salvation.” It was a […]

  10. […] Harutunian on Hoagies & Stogies: Exclusi…Incarnation Conferen… on Hoagies & Stogies: Baptism…Oy, the Unbearable Y… on Do you, like, care about …Mini-Reunion III … on […]

  11. […] one-man interview with David Zadok about Israel, it’s been Nine Long Months since we had an actual two-man debate according to our typical format. So again, to all of you I say Welcome […]

  12. Here’s a quote from a prominent Lutheran I wish we knew about back then…

    The Word of God does not benefit a person who does not believe. Even so an unbeliever is not benefited by going through the action of being baptized. When we urge men to believe in their Baptism, the meaning is that they are to believe their heavenly Father, who has attached such a glorious promise to Baptism. The idea that God is highly pleased when a person offers his head to have water sprinkled on it is an abominable misuse of the verbum visibile. As the Word does not benefit a person who does not believe, even so the Sacraments help only those who embrace them by faith.

  13. […] Note also related H&S on Images, Communion, and Baptism. […]

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