Baptismal Regeneration: A Critique

Article ID: DB055-1 | By: H. Wayne House

The following is an excerpt from article DB055-1 from the Christian Research Journal by Wayne House. The full PDF can be viewed by clicking here.


 

Baptismal Regeneration Critique 1

 

A. Serious Deviation from Doctrine of Grace. Often in the discussion of how baptism relates to forgiveness of sins, Christians are like ships passing in the night. We use different words but mean the same things. This is sometimes the case when discussing sola fide (faith alone) with those believers in a more confessional or ritual-oriented community; these people usually do not hold to the absolute necessity of baptism in affirming faith in Christ, and even when they emphasize baptism, they are speaking of it as a work of God in which a person believes.

On the other hand, there are those who hold a more rigid requirement of water baptism, such as the UPC and the ICC. As evidenced by the absolute statements given above, they hold to baptism as a work that repentant sinners must do before they will be forgiven of their sins by God. They may do this honestly through their misinterpretation of the biblical texts. Nonetheless, they reject the biblical and Reformation doctrine that a person is saved by grace through faith alone apart from any works that we may perform, and so they pervert the gospel.

 

Baptismal Regeneration Critique 2

 

B. Inconsistency Regarding the Doctrine of Grace. The Lutheran theology of baptism could cause some within that tradition to become guilty of placing undue confidence in the sacramental act to the detriment of a genuine faith in Jesus Christ unto salvation. This is not to say, however, that a person holding to the efficacy of baptism for the forgiveness of sins cannot believe in faith alone. Certainly Martin Luther, the father of the Reformation doctrine, should not be maligned in this regard. As indicated earlier, if we view baptism as the work of God, and not man’s, and if a person places his or her faith in the work of God, not the water itself, for the forgiveness of sins, surely one should not declare this an addition of human merit to faith. There also must be the recognition, however, that baptism is not necessary to salvation; for God works in various ways to save people by the gospel apart from baptism.

Anabaptists are open to criticism for sometimes viewing baptism as merely a symbol of the inner work of God that can be observed or not dependent on the individual conscience of the believer. This is a gross distortion of the New Testament teaching that joins baptism with repentance and faith; they should never be separated as an expression of the reception of the grace of God. The New Testament does not speak in terms of an unbaptized Christian. To deny the outward manifestation of the inner work of the Spirit is a serious contradiction of the biblical teaching and should cause reflection on the genuineness of the faith claimed by the person who rejects or neglects water baptism.

Reformed theology does not equate baptism with actual forgiveness, but only as a sign of the inner work of grace and an outward initiation into the community of Christ. Yet they practice infant baptism. If baptism is connected to repentance in the New Testament, then it should not be used as a public statement for children who have not repented.

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