Question: Thank you for your recent critique of Martin Luther’s The Bondage of the Will. This is an important step in the right direction of exposing the true teachings of Martin Luther, as well as John Calvin, both of whose writings clearly show that they believed that the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Table were the “means of grace” whereby a person is born again and receives forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
Enclosed is my “Memento and Certificate of Baptism” and my daughter’s “Certificate of Holy Baptism,” both as babies into the Lutheran Church. As you can see, my certificate was printed by the Missouri Synod’s Concordia Publishing House and reads, “In Baptism full salvation has been given unto you; God has become your Father, and you have become His child.” My daughter’s reads, “You are a child of God because God has made you His child through this act. All of God’s promises belong to you as you live under Him in His Kingdom
You must know that Luther’s Catechism, used in every Lutheran Synod, declares concerning the “Sacrament of Baptism,” that “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.” It also states regarding the “Sacrament of the Altar” [the Lord’s Supper], “namely, that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words.”
This false sacramental gospel kept my parents from ever telling me that I was a sinner and needed a Savior. They thought that I had received eternal life in baptism. I am positive that there are millions of Lutherans believing the same thing my parents did and which I was taught and believed for many years.
I was saved at age 45 when I finally heard the true gospel and believed it....Martin Luther protested some of the obvious error and corruption in the Catholic Church, but kept the sacraments as the means of grace by which a person must be saved. This is taught from his Catechism in every Lutheran Church today.
Furthermore, like the Roman Catholics, both Luther and Calvin and their followers at that time persecuted our true spiritual forefathers, the Anabaptists, who refused to submit to baby baptism or to acknowledge the physical presence of Christ in the bread and wine at the Lord’s Table. We believe that millions of souls are at stake because of this false teaching and have wondered for some time why you have never confronted Luther’s errors in your writing or speaking. Would you be willing to address this issue in the Q&A section of The Berean Call?
Response: Thank you for this needed challenge. Lack of time has kept me from addressing Lutheranism sooner, but we must take the time because we agree with you that the eternal destiny of millions of souls is indeed at stake. Most evangelicals are ignorant of the amount of Roman Catholicism carried over into the Reformation in Lutheran and Calvinist churches. I am currently finishing a book about Calvinism (it also deals briefly with Luther) in which one chapter is titled, “Calvinism’s Surprising Catholic Connection.”
Luther was an Augustinian monk and Calvin a devout Roman Catholic steeped in the teachings of Augustine. Incredibly, both of these leading “Reformers” admired and continued to follow Augustine until their deaths. It is even more incredible that evangelical leaders today hold Luther and Calvin (and Augustine) in such high regard. Augustine is celebrated as the greatest “saint” of the Roman Catholic Church, responsible for most of what Rome practices to this day. In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin quotes Augustine more than 400 times, often with the phrase, “by the authority of Augustine.” Both Luther and Calvin taught that infant baptism (even if performed by an ungodly, unbelieving Catholic priest) brought forgiveness of sins and made one a child of God. That is why Lutherans and Calvinists despised, persecuted and even killed the Anabaptists who, like you, having been truly born again through believing the gospel of Christ, were baptized as believers. While Lutherans and Calvinists, like Catholics, no longer burn at the stake, many of them still despise and persecute former members who are saved and baptized as believers, as you can testify.
Just last week in New York a man showed me the excommunication letter he received from his Missouri Synod Lutheran Church for having believed the gospel and having been baptized as a believer. He told me of the persecution he has received from church leaders, family and former friends. The Bible is clear: “...what doth hinder me to be baptised?” The answer was “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest” (Acts:8:35-39). Clearly, faith in Christ (impossible and therefore unnecessary for a baby) is the prerequisite to baptism.
Even the verse always cited to justify the false doctrine of “baptismal regeneration” (“he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” – Mk 16:16) requires believing the gospel before one is baptized. The fact that babies cannot believe the gospel reveals the error of infant baptism, of which there is not one example in the entire Bible. Babies who die go to heaven, those who grow old enough to understand the gospel must either accept or reject Christ.
The two major passages used by proponents to support infant baptism concern the salvation and baptism of Cornelius’s household (Acts 10) and that of the Philippian jailor (Acts 16). It is assumed that in each case there must have been infants and even babies present and baptized. In each case, that assumption is both unwarranted and contrary to the facts.
In Acts:10:44-47 it was the sign of speaking in tongues which caused Peter and those with him to realize that all “who heard the word” had believed and been saved. This passage clearly teaches that there were no infants present (or if there were, they were not baptized) because infants could not have understood and believed the gospel as was the case with all whom Peter baptized. Moreover, baptismal regeneration is once again excluded by the fact that these new converts had “received the Holy Ghost” before being baptized (10:47).
In Acts:16:30-33 it is equally clear that there were no infants present, much less baptized. Paul’s statement to the jailor, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (v 31) implies that salvation was for those in his house who like him believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. The statement in the next verse that Paul and Silas “spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house,” proves there were no infants present. One does not preach the gospel to babies. All in the house must have been old enough to hear, understand and respond to the gospel in faith and were therefore baptized as believers.
Calvin even taught that infant baptism, if one believed in it, was the one sure way to know one was of the elect; and that the children of the elect didn’t even need to be baptized but were already children of God. Their baptism was not for regeneration but merely to recognize they were already in the church. Calvin also taught not only the real physical presence of Christ in the Eucharist but that the elements were spiritual food for sustaining the believer’s spiritual life. I doubt that many Calvinists today (certainly not those whom I know) would agree with Calvin on these points, and probably most would be shocked to know that Calvin believed such heresies.
This is a serious matter. Why should the Calvinist youth, when he is old enough to understand, be challenged to believe the gospel, inasmuch as he has been considered to be one of the elect since he was born? Confirmation merely confirms what infant baptism—or being born into a Calvinist family—already accomplished. Indeed, what need would there be to preach the gospel to anyone since the elect are regenerated without it and the non-elect, being “totally depraved,” cannot understand or believe it?
So it was with you, raised a Lutheran. You did not hear the gospel in the Lutheran Church—and had you heard it, why should you think you needed it, since you had become a child of God with sins forgiven through baptism as a baby?
The above teachings of Lutheranism and Calvinism constitute a deadly heresy which has deluded (and continues to delude) millions into thinking they were on their way to heaven while actually headed for hell. It must be exposed and opposed just as firmly and clearly as the false gospel of Roman Catholicism, to which it is closely related.