The Salvation of Unborn Children

What is the eternal destiny of children who die in the womb or who are aborted?  Some have said that their original sin merits eternal condemnation.  Most such a horrible conclusion hasn’t rung true for most Christians.  Roman Catholics have posited the existence of “Limbo,” a place of natural–though not supernatural–happiness for the unbaptized.  The Orthodox see the Fall as giving only the predisposition to sin and not sin itself, so children who die before they are baptized go to Heaven.  Calvinists have recourse to their doctrine of election.  Arminians see no problem for those who never had the opportunity for a decision.  Baptists say no one can be lost before the “age of accountability.”  Lutherans leave it to the Grace of God.

But Martin Chemnitz, the second greatest Lutheran theologian and the man most responsible for the Book of Concord has actually addressed this question in his classic treatment of Christology, The Two Natures in Christ:

“This teaching [the doctrine of the hypostatic union] is not idle sophistry, for it is an article of faith that Mary did not beget a man in whom God dwelt. Rather she bore the only Son of God by receiving His flesh, as Augustine says, “He was conceived and born of the Virgin Mary who for this reason and in this sense is correctly called the God-bearer (Theotochos).” If reverently considered, this act produces the most comforting thoughts. For the Son of God embraced the human race with such great love that He did not shrink from descending to such a humble state that He not only did not assume a man who was already formed and born, but rather He united to Himself personally an individual human body in the very moment of its conception and made it His own. Thus the Son of God in assuming His own flesh, but without sin, also endured those things which commonly befall man in conception, pregnancy, and birth (as the fathers of the Council of Ephesus said), so that from His very beginning, rise, and, as it were, root, He might first restore in Himself our depraved nature and so cleanse and sanctify our contaminated conception and birth that we might know that Christ’s salvation applies even to man’s fetus in conception, gestation, and birth.”  

Chemnitz’s Works: The Two Natures in Christ, (St. Louis:  CPH, 2007), p. 102. [Read more...]

The winning thread

I’m back home after two weeks, having taken my vacation and then going to the Consortium for Classical Lutheran Education conference, trying to get back to normal.  Thanks to everyone who posted comments on those general categories while I was incommunicado.  There were some good discussions.  As I promised, I will announce a winner for the person who started a thread with the most comments.  According to my informal, non-counting analysis (correct me if you want to count), the virtual imaginary prize goes to Theological discussions (278 comments) and the thread started by PETE on Baptism. [Read more...]

Good lines on Baptism

The current issue of For the Life of the World, the magazine of Concordia Theological Seminary, has some great articles by its faculty on Baptism.  I’ll give you some samples of what they had to say:

No more than a husband or wife would say “I was married” with the day of the wedding in mind should a Christian say “I was baptized.”  The married man or woman quite naturally answers the question “Are you married?” in the present tense, “I am married.”  If a married person answered this question in the past tense, “I was married,” one would assume that they are now widowed or divorced.  Just so the Christian confesses “I am baptized.”  That is the abiding comfort of Baptism.  The liturgical rite is quickly done with and the water dries but the gift of Baptism does not evaporate.

–Prof. John T. Pless

[Read more...]

Cicadas and Resurrection

Our pastor had some good reflections in our church newsletter on the 17-year locusts (a.k.a. “cicadas”) coming out of the ground around these parts.  He manages to connect cicadas to people, sin, the church, death, resurrection, and baptism! [Read more...]

A heresy trial over baptism

Reformed theologian Peter Leithart is in trouble again over his views on baptism.  He was tried by the Presbyterian Church in America and found innocent of doctrinal violations, but when the prosecutor in that case recently converted to Catholicism, the church body is questioning that decision and looks to put Rev. Leithart back on trial.   (So double jeopardy doesn’t apply to church trials?)  I am in no position to know whether his position is in accord with PCA doctrine or not, but I am curious about the extent to which it accords with Lutheran doctrine.  I’ll post his statement of his beliefs after the jump. [Read more...]

Happy Baptism birthday to me

I didn’t grow up a Lutheran, so I don’t have the Baptismal sponsors or the Baptism anniversaries that lifelong Lutherans generally do.  But not too long ago, I discovered my Baptismal certificate.  It happened on April 10, 1960.  You non-Lutherans will appreciate that it was not an infant baptism.  I was 9.  It was a believer’s baptism.  I remember the fervency of my faith, though I suspect I did not have all that much more theological understanding than an infant.  It was by immersion.  I remember it vividly and it was a true religious experience for me at that young age.  I remember the exultation I felt, the sense of being clean, the sense of being Christ’s.  Such feelings, of course, aren’t necessary, but it’s nice to be able to actually “remember my baptism.”

Why are traditions that don’t put all that much emphasis on Baptism actually doing anything such sticklers about its mode?  When I became a Lutheran, my having been baptized in this way was considered quite valid.

At any rate, who else can remember his or her baptism?  What other Lutherans were baptized as adults?  Those of you in churches that don’t baptized infants, how old does someone have to be before he or she can offer a profession of faith and be baptized?  Those of you who only practice “adult” baptism must remember when this happened to you.  What was it like, and what did it mean to you?  Just church membership, just obeying a law, or was there a sense of the gospel, of dying and rising with Christ?


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