Protestant numbers slide

Protestants are just about to slip down into minority status, according to this report. “Whereas nearly two thirds of Americans identified themselves as Protestant as recently as the 1980s, only 51 percent identify as Protestant today, the study found.” (For a more in-depth discussion of the survey results, read this.)

The major reason is not a surge in the number of Catholics. That church body is losing members faster than any other, except that large numbers of legal and illegal immigrants, most of whom are Catholics, are keeping the numbers up to pretty much what they have been. The biggest factor is the rise of the fastest-growing religious category: the “unaffiliated,” which now numbers 16%. Evidently, people who once went to churches are abandoning them.

I myself am glad Protestants will soon be another minority group. That will allow Protestants to seize the moral high ground, claim victimhood, get respect, silence critics with shame, and allow for the claiming of a whole bunch of new rights.

But seriously, folks. . .The poll also shows a great deal of people changing from one church or one religion to another.

This graph summarizes the data, including showing the losses from childhood to adulthood in each group. What conclusions can you draw from this information?

Religious affiliation data

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • mommy

    I heard this discussed this morning on the (Christian) radio station I listen to and it brought to mind something I read (maybe here?) last year. It was a very good article on the damage being done to our Lutheran “brand” by misguided attempts to make our churches more “seeker friendly.” We’re watering down our liturgy and substituting mindless praise songs for our beautiful hymns so that we can be more like those mega churches that appear to be attracting tons of folks. Once we do this, we no longer have an identifiable “brand” and when Lutherans move to a new city or feel the need to change churches for some other reason, those non-denominational worship services look pretty much just like the Lutheran church they just left. I think this may well be a contributing factor to the high statistic on changing denominations.

    I’m not suggesting that we need to stick with our tradition for tradition’s sake, but we have a unique liturgy and rich “hymnody ” that, I think, needs to be preserved.

  • mommy

    I heard this discussed this morning on the (Christian) radio station I listen to and it brought to mind something I read (maybe here?) last year. It was a very good article on the damage being done to our Lutheran “brand” by misguided attempts to make our churches more “seeker friendly.” We’re watering down our liturgy and substituting mindless praise songs for our beautiful hymns so that we can be more like those mega churches that appear to be attracting tons of folks. Once we do this, we no longer have an identifiable “brand” and when Lutherans move to a new city or feel the need to change churches for some other reason, those non-denominational worship services look pretty much just like the Lutheran church they just left. I think this may well be a contributing factor to the high statistic on changing denominations.

    I’m not suggesting that we need to stick with our tradition for tradition’s sake, but we have a unique liturgy and rich “hymnody ” that, I think, needs to be preserved.

  • http://www.hempelstudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    “What conclusions can you draw from this information?”

    Part of it, in my opinion, is that the church as it is is largely impotent. I have known the power and presence of God in my life. I have seen God change people’s lives dramatically. This simply isn’t happening at Lutheran Churches- or at many other churches. Sometimes, I get up early, go to church to teach Sunday School and skip the service. It seems so banal and pointless most of the time. Everyone is so damned nice, but I think that they came that one. Is anyone being radically transformed into the people of God? (Yes, individuals are being transformed, but the group as a whole I cannot be to sure about.) I think that the decline may not be a such a bad thing. It does, however, change the face of evangelism. How do you share the Good News to people who think they’ve heard it and said, “No thanks.”

  • http://www.hempelstudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    “What conclusions can you draw from this information?”

    Part of it, in my opinion, is that the church as it is is largely impotent. I have known the power and presence of God in my life. I have seen God change people’s lives dramatically. This simply isn’t happening at Lutheran Churches- or at many other churches. Sometimes, I get up early, go to church to teach Sunday School and skip the service. It seems so banal and pointless most of the time. Everyone is so damned nice, but I think that they came that one. Is anyone being radically transformed into the people of God? (Yes, individuals are being transformed, but the group as a whole I cannot be to sure about.) I think that the decline may not be a such a bad thing. It does, however, change the face of evangelism. How do you share the Good News to people who think they’ve heard it and said, “No thanks.”

  • http://www.hempelstudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    Whoops! That should be “came that way…”

  • http://www.hempelstudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    Whoops! That should be “came that way…”

  • kerner

    Does this mean that if we take Lutherans out of the “protestant” catagory (which a lot of Lutherans think should be done) the protestants would already be a minority?

    Sarah (@2), I don’t understand. What kind of dramatic changes have you seen God make in people’s lives that you don’t see happening in Lutheran Churches?

  • kerner

    Does this mean that if we take Lutherans out of the “protestant” catagory (which a lot of Lutherans think should be done) the protestants would already be a minority?

    Sarah (@2), I don’t understand. What kind of dramatic changes have you seen God make in people’s lives that you don’t see happening in Lutheran Churches?

  • Paul

    Sarah, what makes you think that you’ve ever been a Lutheran? How do you experience the presence and power of God in your life apart from His Word and Gifts? You’re fooling yourself into thinking that everyone else is wrong while it is you that have been chasing after . . . what? Clearly it’s not forgiveness and everlasting life by the gift of God which is received by faith but being “radically transformed into the people of God” which is nothing more than another “high” – an escape from reality – like so many other self-destructive, faith eliminating, sugar coated, self-validating experiences which are called ‘enlightenment.’ Where did you get that? Not from the Word of God. Not from 2,000 years of Christianity or 4,000 years of God’s self-revelation. Stop listening to your feelings (“and seeing that the fruit was pleasing to look at and profitable for wisdom, the woman took the fruit from the serpent and ate it”) and pay attention to what God has really said. This makes the perfect example of what is wrong. You have called God’s own Word and Sacraments ‘impotent.’ You have said that this decline isn’t ‘such a bad thing’. I submit that it is you who have said, “No thanks” because “salvation is by faith to all who believe” and not to those who look for it inside themselves, hungering and thirsting for a new and exiting experience. Adultery is new and exiting and transformative (cf. Proverbs). But I have God’s own Word of forgiveness for me, a poor miserable sinner. And only God’s own decree can give me any hope. This is exactly what’s going on in Christianity today: people lounging on their beds of ivory telling others that they haven’t found the real faith because they haven’t experienced a radical transformation; haven’t found this or that emotion; haven’t turned themselves over to Jesus.

    As an LCMS pastor, I see people almost daily who are being enticed away from the Gift of God in their Baptism by this foolishness of talk and it is nauseating! When will we stand up to this reckless, godless generation and say, “Heresy! You crucify Christ anew!” Until we find that voice which can call evil for what it is, we will continue to allow it to consume (eat) the people of God.

    No: not everyone’s opinion on this is equal. There is right and there is wrong. There is truth (‘what is truth?’) and there is heresy.

    But then we’ve been warned by Christ Himself about those who go looking for what their ‘itching ears’ want to hear. Where do they come up with these ideas? They don’t come from God’s own revelation. And if you say that this argument is the reason why so many are leaving, then I say show me from Scripture where I am wrong and you are right. Sola Scriptura!

  • Paul

    Sarah, what makes you think that you’ve ever been a Lutheran? How do you experience the presence and power of God in your life apart from His Word and Gifts? You’re fooling yourself into thinking that everyone else is wrong while it is you that have been chasing after . . . what? Clearly it’s not forgiveness and everlasting life by the gift of God which is received by faith but being “radically transformed into the people of God” which is nothing more than another “high” – an escape from reality – like so many other self-destructive, faith eliminating, sugar coated, self-validating experiences which are called ‘enlightenment.’ Where did you get that? Not from the Word of God. Not from 2,000 years of Christianity or 4,000 years of God’s self-revelation. Stop listening to your feelings (“and seeing that the fruit was pleasing to look at and profitable for wisdom, the woman took the fruit from the serpent and ate it”) and pay attention to what God has really said. This makes the perfect example of what is wrong. You have called God’s own Word and Sacraments ‘impotent.’ You have said that this decline isn’t ‘such a bad thing’. I submit that it is you who have said, “No thanks” because “salvation is by faith to all who believe” and not to those who look for it inside themselves, hungering and thirsting for a new and exiting experience. Adultery is new and exiting and transformative (cf. Proverbs). But I have God’s own Word of forgiveness for me, a poor miserable sinner. And only God’s own decree can give me any hope. This is exactly what’s going on in Christianity today: people lounging on their beds of ivory telling others that they haven’t found the real faith because they haven’t experienced a radical transformation; haven’t found this or that emotion; haven’t turned themselves over to Jesus.

    As an LCMS pastor, I see people almost daily who are being enticed away from the Gift of God in their Baptism by this foolishness of talk and it is nauseating! When will we stand up to this reckless, godless generation and say, “Heresy! You crucify Christ anew!” Until we find that voice which can call evil for what it is, we will continue to allow it to consume (eat) the people of God.

    No: not everyone’s opinion on this is equal. There is right and there is wrong. There is truth (‘what is truth?’) and there is heresy.

    But then we’ve been warned by Christ Himself about those who go looking for what their ‘itching ears’ want to hear. Where do they come up with these ideas? They don’t come from God’s own revelation. And if you say that this argument is the reason why so many are leaving, then I say show me from Scripture where I am wrong and you are right. Sola Scriptura!

  • kerner

    Hmmm. Sarah, you seem to have generated a pretty dramatic change in Paul @5. Was that what you had in mind, or did you mean something else?

  • kerner

    Hmmm. Sarah, you seem to have generated a pretty dramatic change in Paul @5. Was that what you had in mind, or did you mean something else?

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Given the time frame, I wonder if the issue is apostasy as much as it is failure to evangelize. An awful lot of churchgoers have died in the past 20 years, and an awful lot of their grandchildren aren’t in church.

    Still an issue, but perhaps one slightly different.

    And in my opinion, Sarah has noted something very important. If we read the book of Acts closely, we find that those who came to Christ abandoned their sins and clung to Him–we do NOT find them trusting in their infant sprinkling and continuing in their sins, as we see happening in too many churches today.

    Going further, we find John the Baptist telling the Pharisees to produce fruit in keeping with repentance, John at Patmos telling the church that he who walks in sin does not know God, and Paul telling the church that those living in certain habits of sin will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

    More or less, I’m of the opinion that a LOT of churches of ALL denominations (including my own) have tragically downplayed the significance of growth and sanctification. As James says, faith without works is dead.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Given the time frame, I wonder if the issue is apostasy as much as it is failure to evangelize. An awful lot of churchgoers have died in the past 20 years, and an awful lot of their grandchildren aren’t in church.

    Still an issue, but perhaps one slightly different.

    And in my opinion, Sarah has noted something very important. If we read the book of Acts closely, we find that those who came to Christ abandoned their sins and clung to Him–we do NOT find them trusting in their infant sprinkling and continuing in their sins, as we see happening in too many churches today.

    Going further, we find John the Baptist telling the Pharisees to produce fruit in keeping with repentance, John at Patmos telling the church that he who walks in sin does not know God, and Paul telling the church that those living in certain habits of sin will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

    More or less, I’m of the opinion that a LOT of churches of ALL denominations (including my own) have tragically downplayed the significance of growth and sanctification. As James says, faith without works is dead.

  • S Bauer

    Although I do not agree with the conclusions Sarah draws, I would not dismiss her observations out of hand. Many churches in the wealthier parts of the world simply are not interested in being “salt and light.”

  • S Bauer

    Although I do not agree with the conclusions Sarah draws, I would not dismiss her observations out of hand. Many churches in the wealthier parts of the world simply are not interested in being “salt and light.”

  • http://puttingoutthefire.blogspot.com Frank Gillespie

    Looking at the data, and maybe I did in fact miss something, this is only a snapshot of what is going on right now. What the various article reporting on this are all failing to report is that for the last twenty five or thirty years the number of people that call themselves Christian has remained the same when expressed as a percentage. Once that fact is known, the results of the survey shouldn’t shock anybody.

    I saw an interview on the news last night and it seem to focus on the Romans losing members because the new nondenominational members didn’t like “all the rules.” With so many leaving churches for doctrineless nondenominationalism, shouldn’t we all be wondering how many are just leaving the Church?

  • http://puttingoutthefire.blogspot.com Frank Gillespie

    Looking at the data, and maybe I did in fact miss something, this is only a snapshot of what is going on right now. What the various article reporting on this are all failing to report is that for the last twenty five or thirty years the number of people that call themselves Christian has remained the same when expressed as a percentage. Once that fact is known, the results of the survey shouldn’t shock anybody.

    I saw an interview on the news last night and it seem to focus on the Romans losing members because the new nondenominational members didn’t like “all the rules.” With so many leaving churches for doctrineless nondenominationalism, shouldn’t we all be wondering how many are just leaving the Church?

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  • Don S

    I guess I don’t see anything in the presented data comparing what is occurring now to what was occurring 10 or 20 years ago, so it is hard to observe trends. Also, did I miss something? I don’t see any mention of the Lutheran faith in the data :)

    Seriously, from other studies I have seen in recent years, it is the mainline Protestant denominations which are shrinking dramatically, and those raised in these denominations are falling out of the faith in, by far, the greatest numbers. In my view, there is a simple reason for this. A faith which refuses to hold its own sacred scriptures as absolute truth has no reason for being. In whom or what can you put your trust if you can’t trust the truth of your scriptures, as they are constantly being reinterpreted to suit societal norms?

    As for the Catholic faith, it also has, over the years, changed and adopted its scriptural interpretations and practices to suit modern cultural practices. I remember after Vatican II (I was not a Catholic), thinking that it should be the other way around — people should adapt their lives to the immutable God of the Universe. I think, at least subconsciously, a lot of other people, particularly younger people, feel the same way. A faith which does not require anything of its adherents is not worth practicing.

  • Don S

    I guess I don’t see anything in the presented data comparing what is occurring now to what was occurring 10 or 20 years ago, so it is hard to observe trends. Also, did I miss something? I don’t see any mention of the Lutheran faith in the data :)

    Seriously, from other studies I have seen in recent years, it is the mainline Protestant denominations which are shrinking dramatically, and those raised in these denominations are falling out of the faith in, by far, the greatest numbers. In my view, there is a simple reason for this. A faith which refuses to hold its own sacred scriptures as absolute truth has no reason for being. In whom or what can you put your trust if you can’t trust the truth of your scriptures, as they are constantly being reinterpreted to suit societal norms?

    As for the Catholic faith, it also has, over the years, changed and adopted its scriptural interpretations and practices to suit modern cultural practices. I remember after Vatican II (I was not a Catholic), thinking that it should be the other way around — people should adapt their lives to the immutable God of the Universe. I think, at least subconsciously, a lot of other people, particularly younger people, feel the same way. A faith which does not require anything of its adherents is not worth practicing.

  • Bror Erickson

    I’ll let paul answer Sarah, and second it.
    I would like to ask, if being changed by God means becomeing nicer, and they were so damned nice to begin with, why do they need to be changed?

    I see this push towared the “nondenomination.” This movement has been around a while. The Church of Christ now advertises itself here in my town as the “undenomination.” But then these nondenominations aren’t necessarily becoming a denomination, but denominations. Theres a Calvary Chapel in every stripmall across the west, they all teach the same thing. How is that not a denomination. It is probably more unified doctrinally than my beloved LCMS. And that is the problem for us Lutherans. The damage done to the name brand is worse than a few goofy services on sunday morning. There is the issue of the ELCA slanderously using Luthers name everytime the break with some traditional doctrine or practice, women’s ordination, a new sex study… Come on. People don’t know the difference between LCMS and ELCA all they hear is Lutheran. But the copyright wore out sometime ago, so were stuck.
    But many of these Mainline denominations are having the same problems. We could turn it around in the LCMS, I’m convinced of it. But we won’t do it with legalistic resolutions at convention. What we need is a leader in our synod, who is enough of a theologian to distinguish what is good and bad, and enough of a leader to inspire the congregations and pastors to unify, and walk down the path together. Sorry to say, but we obviously don’t have this now. But maybe someone is on the horizon.

  • Bror Erickson

    I’ll let paul answer Sarah, and second it.
    I would like to ask, if being changed by God means becomeing nicer, and they were so damned nice to begin with, why do they need to be changed?

    I see this push towared the “nondenomination.” This movement has been around a while. The Church of Christ now advertises itself here in my town as the “undenomination.” But then these nondenominations aren’t necessarily becoming a denomination, but denominations. Theres a Calvary Chapel in every stripmall across the west, they all teach the same thing. How is that not a denomination. It is probably more unified doctrinally than my beloved LCMS. And that is the problem for us Lutherans. The damage done to the name brand is worse than a few goofy services on sunday morning. There is the issue of the ELCA slanderously using Luthers name everytime the break with some traditional doctrine or practice, women’s ordination, a new sex study… Come on. People don’t know the difference between LCMS and ELCA all they hear is Lutheran. But the copyright wore out sometime ago, so were stuck.
    But many of these Mainline denominations are having the same problems. We could turn it around in the LCMS, I’m convinced of it. But we won’t do it with legalistic resolutions at convention. What we need is a leader in our synod, who is enough of a theologian to distinguish what is good and bad, and enough of a leader to inspire the congregations and pastors to unify, and walk down the path together. Sorry to say, but we obviously don’t have this now. But maybe someone is on the horizon.

  • http://www.boomerinthepew.com David Porter

    I enjoyed your post so much that it stimulated my own post on the subject.

    This report has a lot to teach us. Let’s learn its lessons, refrain from finger pointing and get to work sharing our faith in love.

  • http://www.boomerinthepew.com David Porter

    I enjoyed your post so much that it stimulated my own post on the subject.

    This report has a lot to teach us. Let’s learn its lessons, refrain from finger pointing and get to work sharing our faith in love.

  • http://www.hempelstudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    I ought to stick to the visual arts because when I write I never seem to make myself clear. :-( Please forgive me if I’ve come across as spiritually proud. That is hateful; I am sorry.

    Paul, this is a pretty harsh reading into some of the things that I’ve said (and things that I have not said.)

    Bike Bubba does a much better job clarifying what I was intending to say. When people come to a chuch do they get a new life? Sadly, many of them don’t. Most of them are just as “nice” as the day they came in. For many, this is the goal.

    I became a Lutheran precisely BECAUSE I believe in the Real Presence and because I think that the Lutheran Confessions are true. Let me clarify one thing for certain: I have NOT CALLED God’s own Word and sacraments ‘impotent;’ I said that church (small “c”) is impotent. God’s own Word and sacraments have tremendous power.

    We cannot always tell what is really going on by the numbers. Maybe people in the past have attended church even though they didn’t believe, just because that’s what you do. Is it better to have have church of 1000 people who don’t really believe or a church with 100 people who are truly salt and light? I’m just saying that it *may* not be a bad trend.

  • http://www.hempelstudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    I ought to stick to the visual arts because when I write I never seem to make myself clear. :-( Please forgive me if I’ve come across as spiritually proud. That is hateful; I am sorry.

    Paul, this is a pretty harsh reading into some of the things that I’ve said (and things that I have not said.)

    Bike Bubba does a much better job clarifying what I was intending to say. When people come to a chuch do they get a new life? Sadly, many of them don’t. Most of them are just as “nice” as the day they came in. For many, this is the goal.

    I became a Lutheran precisely BECAUSE I believe in the Real Presence and because I think that the Lutheran Confessions are true. Let me clarify one thing for certain: I have NOT CALLED God’s own Word and sacraments ‘impotent;’ I said that church (small “c”) is impotent. God’s own Word and sacraments have tremendous power.

    We cannot always tell what is really going on by the numbers. Maybe people in the past have attended church even though they didn’t believe, just because that’s what you do. Is it better to have have church of 1000 people who don’t really believe or a church with 100 people who are truly salt and light? I’m just saying that it *may* not be a bad trend.

  • Andrew

    All this sacramental talk reminds me of the passage in 1 Cor 10 where St. Paul reminds us that the fathers were baptized into Moses, that they ate and drank the spiritual food and drink that was Christ, that they had witnessed with their own eyes all the mighty deeds of God done for their redemption, and that nevertheless most of them perished in the wilderness.

    The fault was not with God, or with His powerful means of grace, or with Moses, His called and faithful shepherd (Heb 3:5). The fault was with the hearts of rebellious people – people just like us and all the sons of Adam. It is a reminder that as long as we travel in this wilderness we must always preach repentance and never weary of preaching and hearing the divine Word that created our faith in Christ and that will also sustain that faith.

    Or, as St. Paul puts it, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”

    I do not think that clinging to my infant sprinkling – God’s powerful working – needs to be avoided as somehow opposing a life which clings to Christ in true repentance. After all, my Baptism as an infant teaches me what the daily pattern of my life in Christ is – daily dying to sin under those Word-filled waters, and daily rising with Christ to live before Him clothed in His righteousness.

  • Andrew

    All this sacramental talk reminds me of the passage in 1 Cor 10 where St. Paul reminds us that the fathers were baptized into Moses, that they ate and drank the spiritual food and drink that was Christ, that they had witnessed with their own eyes all the mighty deeds of God done for their redemption, and that nevertheless most of them perished in the wilderness.

    The fault was not with God, or with His powerful means of grace, or with Moses, His called and faithful shepherd (Heb 3:5). The fault was with the hearts of rebellious people – people just like us and all the sons of Adam. It is a reminder that as long as we travel in this wilderness we must always preach repentance and never weary of preaching and hearing the divine Word that created our faith in Christ and that will also sustain that faith.

    Or, as St. Paul puts it, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”

    I do not think that clinging to my infant sprinkling – God’s powerful working – needs to be avoided as somehow opposing a life which clings to Christ in true repentance. After all, my Baptism as an infant teaches me what the daily pattern of my life in Christ is – daily dying to sin under those Word-filled waters, and daily rising with Christ to live before Him clothed in His righteousness.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    A lot of the commenters above seem to have missed that the group labeled “unaffiliated” in this chart aren’t “nondenominational” Christians — they’re (apparently) unbelievers — grouped into atheists, agnosticts, and “nothing in particular”. It’s not that Protestant and Catholic numbers are down because people are joining “nondenominational” churches (which would, I believe, fall under “evangelical churches” in the data), it’s that people are leaving the church altogether. Or perhaps simply confirming their existing lukewarm status.

    And Sarah (@2), I think I got what you were saying the first time. :) I, too, feel jealous when I read what the early church was like in Acts. And then I feel guilty for my part in a lackadaisical, selfish church. Thank God for forgiveness!

    A lot of it comes down to a lack of faith. If you really believed, you could say to that mountain to move, and it would. And if we really believed that Jesus gave us the ultimate gift — complete, free forgiveness — might we be a little more excited to share that gift and act in total love towards our neighbor in thanks for the love God showed us? But we know how shy and sluggish Lutherans can be! I’m not saying that our waking up out of our stupor would make us more popular or populous. Only that we can’t really say empirically that it won’t.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    A lot of the commenters above seem to have missed that the group labeled “unaffiliated” in this chart aren’t “nondenominational” Christians — they’re (apparently) unbelievers — grouped into atheists, agnosticts, and “nothing in particular”. It’s not that Protestant and Catholic numbers are down because people are joining “nondenominational” churches (which would, I believe, fall under “evangelical churches” in the data), it’s that people are leaving the church altogether. Or perhaps simply confirming their existing lukewarm status.

    And Sarah (@2), I think I got what you were saying the first time. :) I, too, feel jealous when I read what the early church was like in Acts. And then I feel guilty for my part in a lackadaisical, selfish church. Thank God for forgiveness!

    A lot of it comes down to a lack of faith. If you really believed, you could say to that mountain to move, and it would. And if we really believed that Jesus gave us the ultimate gift — complete, free forgiveness — might we be a little more excited to share that gift and act in total love towards our neighbor in thanks for the love God showed us? But we know how shy and sluggish Lutherans can be! I’m not saying that our waking up out of our stupor would make us more popular or populous. Only that we can’t really say empirically that it won’t.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    Did anyone else notice this quote from the New York Times summary of the Pew report which REALLY caught my eye: “The trend is towards more personal religion, and evangelicals offer that.” I find this quote and trend very sad because I believe that a church which makes religion more personal means making it about ME. I spent too long in churches that made worship about me before I learned that worshiping God is not about ME; it’s the ANTIDOTE for me. Here on this earth, I have no problem making nearly everything about me. It’s my best (and worst) habit. We all do it, if we are honest with ourselves. Divine worship is that brief respite FROM me.

    That search for a church that make religion “personal” leads to frequent church-hopping, I think. I probably don’t hold the record, but here’s my hopping history:
    baptized Ukrainian Orthodox, childhood in Congregational Church, catechized and confirmed ELCA Lutheran, 20 years of adulthood in several (14 that I can remember) non-demoninational, evangelical and/or fundamentalist churches (major confusion followed by depression), and finally found a home in a small Lutheran synod (ELS). I pray my children, now older teens, don’t follow my path. My prayer is that they remain in the church we finally ended up in, but I have no control over that. I do have faith that they have learned the right thing and will make good choices in their lives; I pray that I will have the grace to continue to love them throughout their possible choices. So far so good; they consider our current church the least weird of all of mom’s choices over the years. :)

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    Did anyone else notice this quote from the New York Times summary of the Pew report which REALLY caught my eye: “The trend is towards more personal religion, and evangelicals offer that.” I find this quote and trend very sad because I believe that a church which makes religion more personal means making it about ME. I spent too long in churches that made worship about me before I learned that worshiping God is not about ME; it’s the ANTIDOTE for me. Here on this earth, I have no problem making nearly everything about me. It’s my best (and worst) habit. We all do it, if we are honest with ourselves. Divine worship is that brief respite FROM me.

    That search for a church that make religion “personal” leads to frequent church-hopping, I think. I probably don’t hold the record, but here’s my hopping history:
    baptized Ukrainian Orthodox, childhood in Congregational Church, catechized and confirmed ELCA Lutheran, 20 years of adulthood in several (14 that I can remember) non-demoninational, evangelical and/or fundamentalist churches (major confusion followed by depression), and finally found a home in a small Lutheran synod (ELS). I pray my children, now older teens, don’t follow my path. My prayer is that they remain in the church we finally ended up in, but I have no control over that. I do have faith that they have learned the right thing and will make good choices in their lives; I pray that I will have the grace to continue to love them throughout their possible choices. So far so good; they consider our current church the least weird of all of mom’s choices over the years. :)

  • Kirk

    I tend to wonder if this trend has anything to do with the politicization of the church over the past two decades. It seems that more and more, Christianity, particularly evangelicalism, is inseparably tied to a certain brand of moral and fiscal conservatism. I tend to think that this turns people of different political ideologies off. They see the disconnect between their politics and the average Christian’s and interpret that as a barrier to faith. This brings to mind an interesting observation that my pastor made several weeks ago. He said “I think that Christians today are known more for what they oppose than for their love.” I tend to agree. Where as we’re commanded time and time again to love our enemies, care for the weak, and to be hospitable to strangers, we tend to devote most of our efforts to protesting homosexual marriage, or abortion, or secular culture. While I’m not implying that any of these things aren’t evil, and aren’t worth fighting against, it seems that we’ve forgotten what the defining characteristic of a Christian should be: the emulation of Christ through love. Perhaps a focus on true religion instead of politics would bring those numbers back up.

  • Kirk

    I tend to wonder if this trend has anything to do with the politicization of the church over the past two decades. It seems that more and more, Christianity, particularly evangelicalism, is inseparably tied to a certain brand of moral and fiscal conservatism. I tend to think that this turns people of different political ideologies off. They see the disconnect between their politics and the average Christian’s and interpret that as a barrier to faith. This brings to mind an interesting observation that my pastor made several weeks ago. He said “I think that Christians today are known more for what they oppose than for their love.” I tend to agree. Where as we’re commanded time and time again to love our enemies, care for the weak, and to be hospitable to strangers, we tend to devote most of our efforts to protesting homosexual marriage, or abortion, or secular culture. While I’m not implying that any of these things aren’t evil, and aren’t worth fighting against, it seems that we’ve forgotten what the defining characteristic of a Christian should be: the emulation of Christ through love. Perhaps a focus on true religion instead of politics would bring those numbers back up.

  • crs

    I’m wondering where this survey would place Lutherans: in mainstream Protestant or the Evangelical category.

  • crs

    I’m wondering where this survey would place Lutherans: in mainstream Protestant or the Evangelical category.

  • Kirk

    …And so I just read that other post that deals with what I just wrote. I still stand by what I said with a minor clarification:

    I’m not implying that a total abandonment of politics is in order, or that we should sacrifice or stance on morality in the name of evangelism. I simply feel that our emphasis on conservative politics may be too great.

  • Kirk

    …And so I just read that other post that deals with what I just wrote. I still stand by what I said with a minor clarification:

    I’m not implying that a total abandonment of politics is in order, or that we should sacrifice or stance on morality in the name of evangelism. I simply feel that our emphasis on conservative politics may be too great.

  • S Bauer

    Don S @11
    Read unChristian: What A New Generation Really Thinks About Christians and Why It Matters by Dave Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons out of the Barna research group. This gives you more than enough data about the perceptions of Christians and Christianity by those who do not believe in Jesus, many of whom, by the way, have had quite a bit of exposure to and dealings with the church. The book illuminates many of the concerns that sarah expressed.

  • S Bauer

    Don S @11
    Read unChristian: What A New Generation Really Thinks About Christians and Why It Matters by Dave Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons out of the Barna research group. This gives you more than enough data about the perceptions of Christians and Christianity by those who do not believe in Jesus, many of whom, by the way, have had quite a bit of exposure to and dealings with the church. The book illuminates many of the concerns that sarah expressed.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Lest it be misconstrued, I would also argue that one can wrongly trust in getting really wet as an adult just as certainly as one can wrongly trust in infant sprinkling.

    Sarah’s post was just an excellent place to “jump off” from to draw a picture of why churches aren’t reproducing themselves. All too often, we get people wet instead of making disciples, and then we’re surprised by the congregants dressed up as empty pews.

    I don’t know that we should be.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Lest it be misconstrued, I would also argue that one can wrongly trust in getting really wet as an adult just as certainly as one can wrongly trust in infant sprinkling.

    Sarah’s post was just an excellent place to “jump off” from to draw a picture of why churches aren’t reproducing themselves. All too often, we get people wet instead of making disciples, and then we’re surprised by the congregants dressed up as empty pews.

    I don’t know that we should be.

  • Don S

    S. Bauer @21 — I didn’t address Sarah’s comments in my post @11, so I think you addressed your thoughts to the wrong post.

  • Don S

    S. Bauer @21 — I didn’t address Sarah’s comments in my post @11, so I think you addressed your thoughts to the wrong post.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    “just as certainly as one can wrongly trust in infant sprinkling.”

    Huh? You can’t trust God’s words that say we are saved through baptism? I must have missed something here…

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    “just as certainly as one can wrongly trust in infant sprinkling.”

    Huh? You can’t trust God’s words that say we are saved through baptism? I must have missed something here…

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Theresa, take a look at the full context of the verse you’d cite, 1 Peter 3:21

    “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

    Now notice Peter specifically points out that it’s the answer of a good conscience toward God, not the washing (putting away of the filth of the flesh), that is what saves about baptism. In other words, living faith showing itself through godly fruit.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Theresa, take a look at the full context of the verse you’d cite, 1 Peter 3:21

    “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

    Now notice Peter specifically points out that it’s the answer of a good conscience toward God, not the washing (putting away of the filth of the flesh), that is what saves about baptism. In other words, living faith showing itself through godly fruit.

  • kerner

    Bike Bubba:

    Sure, but Holy Baptism is like the preaching of God’s Word. It is the means by which the Holy Spirit works on people’s hearts, thus producing the “good conscience toward God” that you speak of. A person can harden his heart against the Holy Spirit whether He is working in God’s Word as preached, or working in God’s Word with the water of Baptism. But, these are the means God uses to save us, all the same, because it is the working of the Holy Spirit that produces faith, not our own works or decisions.

  • kerner

    Bike Bubba:

    Sure, but Holy Baptism is like the preaching of God’s Word. It is the means by which the Holy Spirit works on people’s hearts, thus producing the “good conscience toward God” that you speak of. A person can harden his heart against the Holy Spirit whether He is working in God’s Word as preached, or working in God’s Word with the water of Baptism. But, these are the means God uses to save us, all the same, because it is the working of the Holy Spirit that produces faith, not our own works or decisions.

  • http://bestronginthegrace.blogspot.com Theresa K.

    Becoming a child of God is not a decision that any human being makes. God chooses us (John 15:16) and through the gospel in word and sacraments creates and sustains faith within us. Faith is trust in Jesus for salvation, it is not a decision or an act of the human will.

    In 1 Peter 3:21, Peter is stressing the power of baptism to save us by connecting us to the resurrection of Christ through which we are GIVEN (by God) the gift of a conscience at peace with God.

    Becoming a child of God is not a decision that any one makes. God chooses us and, through the gospel in word and sacraments, creates and sustains faith within us. Faith is trust in Jesus for salvation, it is not a decision or an act of the human will.

  • http://bestronginthegrace.blogspot.com Theresa K.

    Becoming a child of God is not a decision that any human being makes. God chooses us (John 15:16) and through the gospel in word and sacraments creates and sustains faith within us. Faith is trust in Jesus for salvation, it is not a decision or an act of the human will.

    In 1 Peter 3:21, Peter is stressing the power of baptism to save us by connecting us to the resurrection of Christ through which we are GIVEN (by God) the gift of a conscience at peace with God.

    Becoming a child of God is not a decision that any one makes. God chooses us and, through the gospel in word and sacraments, creates and sustains faith within us. Faith is trust in Jesus for salvation, it is not a decision or an act of the human will.

  • http://bestronginthegrace.blogspot.com Theresa K.

    Sorry, my editing skills are pretty bad today! Yikes. Sneaky text!

  • http://bestronginthegrace.blogspot.com Theresa K.

    Sorry, my editing skills are pretty bad today! Yikes. Sneaky text!

  • Bror Erickson

    Bike bubba,
    What Peter says here in 3:21 is that the power of baptism is not in the ordinary effects of water to wash the dirt off of you at the end of the day, but in the extraordinary power of the water combined with God’s very own word and promise to wash your conscience clean, and make it presentable to God. In baptism your dirty evil conscience is changed it becomes a good conscience, it is sprinkled clean. This is reiterated in Hebrews.
    Hebrews 10:22 (ESV)
    let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
    Seems even the apostles sprinkled.

  • Bror Erickson

    Bike bubba,
    What Peter says here in 3:21 is that the power of baptism is not in the ordinary effects of water to wash the dirt off of you at the end of the day, but in the extraordinary power of the water combined with God’s very own word and promise to wash your conscience clean, and make it presentable to God. In baptism your dirty evil conscience is changed it becomes a good conscience, it is sprinkled clean. This is reiterated in Hebrews.
    Hebrews 10:22 (ESV)
    let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
    Seems even the apostles sprinkled.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Bror, if you want to take that literally, one would also have to assume that the apostles tore the hearts out of people to sprinkle them. That’s what the verb is pointing to, after all, grammatically speaking.

    :^)

    And the 1 Peter verse? Wonderful rhetoric aside, exactly how do we get to the pledge of a good conscience being something besides the response of the believer?

    And in the same way, exactly how do we get around the reality that countless people–even those baptized in sacramental churches like the LCMS (and many in my own tradition, too)–are showing themselves on the highway to Hell? Do we assume that a certain portion are ineffective?

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Bror, if you want to take that literally, one would also have to assume that the apostles tore the hearts out of people to sprinkle them. That’s what the verb is pointing to, after all, grammatically speaking.

    :^)

    And the 1 Peter verse? Wonderful rhetoric aside, exactly how do we get to the pledge of a good conscience being something besides the response of the believer?

    And in the same way, exactly how do we get around the reality that countless people–even those baptized in sacramental churches like the LCMS (and many in my own tradition, too)–are showing themselves on the highway to Hell? Do we assume that a certain portion are ineffective?

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    How do we get around YOUR reality? What would you have people do to prove to YOU that they are saved? What actions would suffice? All of our deeds are like dirt rags to God, when we are doing it to show someone how Christian we are. How is it that you are qualified to determine whether the actions of anyone reflect their faith? Have faith, instead, that God is fully capable of growing and nurturing the seeds that He plants in baptism. Let scripture interpret scripture. My explanations are based on scripture, not rhetoric.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    How do we get around YOUR reality? What would you have people do to prove to YOU that they are saved? What actions would suffice? All of our deeds are like dirt rags to God, when we are doing it to show someone how Christian we are. How is it that you are qualified to determine whether the actions of anyone reflect their faith? Have faith, instead, that God is fully capable of growing and nurturing the seeds that He plants in baptism. Let scripture interpret scripture. My explanations are based on scripture, not rhetoric.

  • WebMonk

    I think what Bubba understood you to be implying was that everyone who is baptized, regardless of anything else, will spend eternity with Jesus. (That’s what it sounded like to me too, BTW.)

  • WebMonk

    I think what Bubba understood you to be implying was that everyone who is baptized, regardless of anything else, will spend eternity with Jesus. (That’s what it sounded like to me too, BTW.)

  • Bror Erickson

    Bike Bubba,
    You can take the meaning behing figurative language literally. To believe that our hearts often used synonomously with conscience, and here definately not meaning the biological organ that pumps blood, is washed clean, by the sprinkling of water in baptism, does not mean that one believes the apostles tore the hearts out. To say that some of the terms are more or less figuative, does not mean the whole phrase is figurative. But if the apostles were not in the habit of sprinkling, and were emersion only baptists, then I think this verse would read a lot differently.
    As for people showing themselves to be on the highway to hell even though they have been baptized. Well as you point out “beleiver baptism” is no guarantee that one will not walk away from one’s baptism. And as a pastor I have had to ask a few not to come to communion that week until some issues of open and unrepentant sin were worked out. But other than that I am in no position to judge the faith of anyone. I probably have a few better hidden sins that remain unrepented of. And if you were to look at my life you might determine that I am on the highway to hell. I don’t know, what I do know is that Jesus baptized me with fire and the Holy Spirit, when I was about 3 hours old, using my dad who poured water over my head. In that baptism God made a promise to me, he adopted me as his own, put his name on me. He has never broken that promise. I don’t think I have ever lived up to the holy name he put on me that day, but God is gracious to forgive. I do believe I could walk away from my baptism, but God would always be calling me back to it. I suppose it is easier for me to live with God’s grace than fight it. Yes I abuse it, every day, I’m terrible with gifts, I take them for granted. Somehow though I don’t believe God breaks his promises, even when I break mine. He forgives. So when I am brought to repentance for my wayward ways, It is never a thought to me that God needs to renew the promise he made to me in baptism. He did it once, it is enough. One baptism, thats what I believe, Ephesians 4.

  • Bror Erickson

    Bike Bubba,
    You can take the meaning behing figurative language literally. To believe that our hearts often used synonomously with conscience, and here definately not meaning the biological organ that pumps blood, is washed clean, by the sprinkling of water in baptism, does not mean that one believes the apostles tore the hearts out. To say that some of the terms are more or less figuative, does not mean the whole phrase is figurative. But if the apostles were not in the habit of sprinkling, and were emersion only baptists, then I think this verse would read a lot differently.
    As for people showing themselves to be on the highway to hell even though they have been baptized. Well as you point out “beleiver baptism” is no guarantee that one will not walk away from one’s baptism. And as a pastor I have had to ask a few not to come to communion that week until some issues of open and unrepentant sin were worked out. But other than that I am in no position to judge the faith of anyone. I probably have a few better hidden sins that remain unrepented of. And if you were to look at my life you might determine that I am on the highway to hell. I don’t know, what I do know is that Jesus baptized me with fire and the Holy Spirit, when I was about 3 hours old, using my dad who poured water over my head. In that baptism God made a promise to me, he adopted me as his own, put his name on me. He has never broken that promise. I don’t think I have ever lived up to the holy name he put on me that day, but God is gracious to forgive. I do believe I could walk away from my baptism, but God would always be calling me back to it. I suppose it is easier for me to live with God’s grace than fight it. Yes I abuse it, every day, I’m terrible with gifts, I take them for granted. Somehow though I don’t believe God breaks his promises, even when I break mine. He forgives. So when I am brought to repentance for my wayward ways, It is never a thought to me that God needs to renew the promise he made to me in baptism. He did it once, it is enough. One baptism, thats what I believe, Ephesians 4.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Well, Bror, why do we take the sprinkling literally, but the heart figuratively? Why do we change our hermeneutic in the middle of a verse?

    For what it’s worth, that verse doesn’t describe Christian baptism at all, but rather refers to the ritual washing of a priest and that priest’s sprinkling of BLOOD, not water, around the Temple.

    There are decent arguments for the Lutheran position on baptism, but that’s not one of them.

    And Theresa, if you find something unscriptural about Jesus’ insistence that a tree is known by its fruit, as well as that of the apostles, do let me know.

    Yes, our best deeds are akin to filthy (literally menstrual, I believe) rags. That said, the epistles make very clear that there ought to be some transformation in the lives of sinful men. If it’s not there, we ought to doubt the geniuneness of one’s conversion.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Well, Bror, why do we take the sprinkling literally, but the heart figuratively? Why do we change our hermeneutic in the middle of a verse?

    For what it’s worth, that verse doesn’t describe Christian baptism at all, but rather refers to the ritual washing of a priest and that priest’s sprinkling of BLOOD, not water, around the Temple.

    There are decent arguments for the Lutheran position on baptism, but that’s not one of them.

    And Theresa, if you find something unscriptural about Jesus’ insistence that a tree is known by its fruit, as well as that of the apostles, do let me know.

    Yes, our best deeds are akin to filthy (literally menstrual, I believe) rags. That said, the epistles make very clear that there ought to be some transformation in the lives of sinful men. If it’s not there, we ought to doubt the geniuneness of one’s conversion.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    Great comments, Bror. You said better what I was trying to say.

    Re: “showing themselves on the highway to Hell”
    I think that it is a dangerous temptation to look around at church (or anywhere else for that matter) and starting asking yourself who is saved and who is not based on what they say, do or whatever. A person who appears so upright could be lying to everyone but God, or could slip up the very next day. At any moment in time, someone might be stuck in a sin for a while, but I have no doubt that God has remained capable of jealously and unceasingly calling to that person through the proclamation of scripture (and through their baptism, if one exists). As Bror wrote, “I do believe I could walk away from my baptism, but God would always be calling me back to it.”

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    Great comments, Bror. You said better what I was trying to say.

    Re: “showing themselves on the highway to Hell”
    I think that it is a dangerous temptation to look around at church (or anywhere else for that matter) and starting asking yourself who is saved and who is not based on what they say, do or whatever. A person who appears so upright could be lying to everyone but God, or could slip up the very next day. At any moment in time, someone might be stuck in a sin for a while, but I have no doubt that God has remained capable of jealously and unceasingly calling to that person through the proclamation of scripture (and through their baptism, if one exists). As Bror wrote, “I do believe I could walk away from my baptism, but God would always be calling me back to it.”

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    Bike Bubba, I have a feeling that no matter what I would say, you would tell me why I’m wrong. I have no desire to argue other than to discuss the topic in Christian love and with the whole of scripture. Yes, Jesus will know us by our fruit, but not necessarily the fruit we think He will see. I whole-heartedly believe that NOT ONE of us is capable of doing Jesus’ job of judging each other’s hearts and fruits.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    Bike Bubba, I have a feeling that no matter what I would say, you would tell me why I’m wrong. I have no desire to argue other than to discuss the topic in Christian love and with the whole of scripture. Yes, Jesus will know us by our fruit, but not necessarily the fruit we think He will see. I whole-heartedly believe that NOT ONE of us is capable of doing Jesus’ job of judging each other’s hearts and fruits.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    Re: I think what Bubba understood you to be implying was that everyone who is baptized, regardless of anything else, will spend eternity with Jesus. (That’s what it sounded like to me too, BTW.)

    Lutherans don’t believe that. We do not believe in once saved, always saved. We believe that it is very possible to reject Christ, even after being baptized.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    Re: I think what Bubba understood you to be implying was that everyone who is baptized, regardless of anything else, will spend eternity with Jesus. (That’s what it sounded like to me too, BTW.)

    Lutherans don’t believe that. We do not believe in once saved, always saved. We believe that it is very possible to reject Christ, even after being baptized.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Bike Bubba (@34), you are right that the Hebrews 10 reference is to that of the Israelite priests. What you seem to miss, though, is how all of that Old Testament law foreshadowed the truth in Christ (in fact, this is the point of that chapter and much else of Hebrews).

    It is rather obvious that the author of Hebrews is not literally talking about entering the Most Holy Place. I’m not even sure if the Temple was standing by the time Hebrews was circulated — it certainly wasn’t shortly thereafter. In fact, the author makes explicit one of his metaphors, that of Jesus as the curtain through which we enter to stand in God’s presence (or “this grace in which we now stand”).

    If, as you claim, “that verse … refers to the ritual washing of a priest and that priest’s sprinkling of BLOOD,” then even you would have to admit to a mixing of literal and figurative — after all, the early Christians’ hearts were certainly not literally sprinkled with sacrificial blood. (And I don’t think their bodies were literally sprinkled with it, either — the whole point of Hebrews is that Christians need not go back to the old, foreshadowing ways, but to cling to Christ and his fulfillment of those ways.)

    If you’re confused about the mixture of literal and figurative, consider the English phrase “I had a change of heart about that issue”. Did your heart literally change? No. But was there a literal change? Yes. I can’t speak to the underlying Greek — sadly, I am forced to rely on the English translations at hand — but I don’t see that “literal” or “figurative” should be considered applicable only at the sentence level.

    Still, I thank you for the reminder of the wonderful picture of our baptism that was the priest’s actions. They repeatedly immersed themselves in water and repeatedly sprinkled blood on the people as a picture of the cleansing of sin. We, however, were sprinkled or immersed once for the complete forgiveness of sins. Thank God for that.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Bike Bubba (@34), you are right that the Hebrews 10 reference is to that of the Israelite priests. What you seem to miss, though, is how all of that Old Testament law foreshadowed the truth in Christ (in fact, this is the point of that chapter and much else of Hebrews).

    It is rather obvious that the author of Hebrews is not literally talking about entering the Most Holy Place. I’m not even sure if the Temple was standing by the time Hebrews was circulated — it certainly wasn’t shortly thereafter. In fact, the author makes explicit one of his metaphors, that of Jesus as the curtain through which we enter to stand in God’s presence (or “this grace in which we now stand”).

    If, as you claim, “that verse … refers to the ritual washing of a priest and that priest’s sprinkling of BLOOD,” then even you would have to admit to a mixing of literal and figurative — after all, the early Christians’ hearts were certainly not literally sprinkled with sacrificial blood. (And I don’t think their bodies were literally sprinkled with it, either — the whole point of Hebrews is that Christians need not go back to the old, foreshadowing ways, but to cling to Christ and his fulfillment of those ways.)

    If you’re confused about the mixture of literal and figurative, consider the English phrase “I had a change of heart about that issue”. Did your heart literally change? No. But was there a literal change? Yes. I can’t speak to the underlying Greek — sadly, I am forced to rely on the English translations at hand — but I don’t see that “literal” or “figurative” should be considered applicable only at the sentence level.

    Still, I thank you for the reminder of the wonderful picture of our baptism that was the priest’s actions. They repeatedly immersed themselves in water and repeatedly sprinkled blood on the people as a picture of the cleansing of sin. We, however, were sprinkled or immersed once for the complete forgiveness of sins. Thank God for that.

  • Bror Erickson

    Bike Bubba,

    If the verse isn’t about baptism than why does it specifically mention water? That particular verse doesn’t even mention blood, or a temple. Not to read it out of context, but the only blood that is mention in that paragraph is Christ’s, and he is also the only priest. I can’t think of a time where anyone was sprinkled with the blood of Christ, and washed with pure water at the same time, unless they are referring to what happens in baptism. I do believe our hearts are cleaned by the blood of Christ when we drink it in the Lord’s Supper. But I don’t see this verse talking about that sacrament in particular. so…
    But I guess if you want to read literal heart here, then go ahead. I guess it is easier for me to see the sprinkling referring to an actual practice like baptism. What do you see it referring to again? Where was this done in our live? the lives of the original readers?
    You see this was a letter written to Christians, and I don’t remember a time where Christ walked around the temple sprinkling his blood. Do you?
    Well then I guess I’ve been doing it wrong, first I’m supposed to slaughter a goat, then when the family brings their baby up to the font I will rip the baby’s heart out and sprinkle it with the goat blood. (just so you all know I’m on a sarcastic bent here)
    Unlike Theresa k, I’ll get into this useless argument with you Bike. Just for fun.

  • Bror Erickson

    Bike Bubba,

    If the verse isn’t about baptism than why does it specifically mention water? That particular verse doesn’t even mention blood, or a temple. Not to read it out of context, but the only blood that is mention in that paragraph is Christ’s, and he is also the only priest. I can’t think of a time where anyone was sprinkled with the blood of Christ, and washed with pure water at the same time, unless they are referring to what happens in baptism. I do believe our hearts are cleaned by the blood of Christ when we drink it in the Lord’s Supper. But I don’t see this verse talking about that sacrament in particular. so…
    But I guess if you want to read literal heart here, then go ahead. I guess it is easier for me to see the sprinkling referring to an actual practice like baptism. What do you see it referring to again? Where was this done in our live? the lives of the original readers?
    You see this was a letter written to Christians, and I don’t remember a time where Christ walked around the temple sprinkling his blood. Do you?
    Well then I guess I’ve been doing it wrong, first I’m supposed to slaughter a goat, then when the family brings their baby up to the font I will rip the baby’s heart out and sprinkle it with the goat blood. (just so you all know I’m on a sarcastic bent here)
    Unlike Theresa k, I’ll get into this useless argument with you Bike. Just for fun.

  • Andrew

    I really see no difference between being washed by God with water and the Word and the life of faith and faith’s works that flow from this gift of grace.

    That’s how He puts it, after all:
    “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” (Ezek 36)

    God does the cleansing (through water and the promise of His Word here and elsewhere), God cuts out our old heart of stone, God puts in the new beating heart and the new Spirit (His Spirit). The works flow from this: God causing us to walk in His statutes. “I will cause”, He says.

    That is beautiful, and so is what St. Paul says: “washing of rebirth and renewal” (Titus 3), “washing away our sins” (Acts 22), “cleansed by the washing of water with the Word” (Eph 5). All the same holy bath.

    Sure, people will reject that holy bath and walk away. “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire”, says St. Peter. But the fault is not with the farmer who did the washing or with the water he used – the problem is with the sow. How our old Adam loves the muck of sin!

    Thank God that He is always calling us back even as we sit among the sows. “Not for your sake, but for My holy Name”, He says, He acts (Ezek 36). I take great comfort in that, and place no trust in my own works.

  • Andrew

    I really see no difference between being washed by God with water and the Word and the life of faith and faith’s works that flow from this gift of grace.

    That’s how He puts it, after all:
    “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” (Ezek 36)

    God does the cleansing (through water and the promise of His Word here and elsewhere), God cuts out our old heart of stone, God puts in the new beating heart and the new Spirit (His Spirit). The works flow from this: God causing us to walk in His statutes. “I will cause”, He says.

    That is beautiful, and so is what St. Paul says: “washing of rebirth and renewal” (Titus 3), “washing away our sins” (Acts 22), “cleansed by the washing of water with the Word” (Eph 5). All the same holy bath.

    Sure, people will reject that holy bath and walk away. “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire”, says St. Peter. But the fault is not with the farmer who did the washing or with the water he used – the problem is with the sow. How our old Adam loves the muck of sin!

    Thank God that He is always calling us back even as we sit among the sows. “Not for your sake, but for My holy Name”, He says, He acts (Ezek 36). I take great comfort in that, and place no trust in my own works.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Todd, you’re departing from what Bror said. I was merely responding to the claim that Hebrews 10 demonstrates that the apostles sprinkled in baptism. To use this passage as such is a colossal bait & switch that depends on changing one’s hermeneutic in mid-sentence.

    Please. There are reasonable arguments for the Lutheran position on baptism. Hebrews 10:22 is simply not one of them.

    And Theresa, it is not my intent to disagree with you for the purpose of disagreeing with you. (I’d have to know you better than I do to risk that, and if I did, it would be in fun, not spitefully)

    All I’m pointing out is that, while we may not know everyone’s spiritual state to the letter, the New Testament does give us certain guidelines for the fruit that we ought to see in the lives of believers. If we don’t see some of that, some transformation in our behavior and attitudes, we’ve got to question whether we’re really in Him, no?

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Todd, you’re departing from what Bror said. I was merely responding to the claim that Hebrews 10 demonstrates that the apostles sprinkled in baptism. To use this passage as such is a colossal bait & switch that depends on changing one’s hermeneutic in mid-sentence.

    Please. There are reasonable arguments for the Lutheran position on baptism. Hebrews 10:22 is simply not one of them.

    And Theresa, it is not my intent to disagree with you for the purpose of disagreeing with you. (I’d have to know you better than I do to risk that, and if I did, it would be in fun, not spitefully)

    All I’m pointing out is that, while we may not know everyone’s spiritual state to the letter, the New Testament does give us certain guidelines for the fruit that we ought to see in the lives of believers. If we don’t see some of that, some transformation in our behavior and attitudes, we’ve got to question whether we’re really in Him, no?

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    Bike,

    I agree with you on your last point, in that we definitely are supposed hold certain believers to a standard of behavior – calling of elders, teachers, pastors, etc. Yet, we certainly all can think of times we’ve been deceived by these seemingly very upright people. And yes, we can hold ourselves to high standards (though I think that the honest Christian will admit that he is a very poor judge of himself – I know I am, yet I know I am saved), but we can’t judge others’ salvation.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    Bike,

    I agree with you on your last point, in that we definitely are supposed hold certain believers to a standard of behavior – calling of elders, teachers, pastors, etc. Yet, we certainly all can think of times we’ve been deceived by these seemingly very upright people. And yes, we can hold ourselves to high standards (though I think that the honest Christian will admit that he is a very poor judge of himself – I know I am, yet I know I am saved), but we can’t judge others’ salvation.

  • WebMonk

    Then Theresa, what is your problem with what Bike Bubba said? You took issue with his statement up in comment #30 and suggested that he was holding to a works-based salvation. Now you’re agreeing with him even though he hasn’t changed anything.

    I’m not pointing at you specifically other than an instance of a more widely-spread happening in blogs all over, namely jumping on top of someone for saying something because one assumes they mean it in an incorrect manner. Let’s have a bit of grace in dealing with one another!

  • WebMonk

    Then Theresa, what is your problem with what Bike Bubba said? You took issue with his statement up in comment #30 and suggested that he was holding to a works-based salvation. Now you’re agreeing with him even though he hasn’t changed anything.

    I’m not pointing at you specifically other than an instance of a more widely-spread happening in blogs all over, namely jumping on top of someone for saying something because one assumes they mean it in an incorrect manner. Let’s have a bit of grace in dealing with one another!


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