Friday, February 22, 2013

Question I sent to Jonathan Fisk @ Worldview Everlasting


I occasionally catch the occasionally-helpful and usually-witty Worldview Everlasting show on Lutheran theology, etc, served up by one Pastor Jonathan Fisk, conservative Lutheran extraordinaire. He comes highly recommended by frequent reader Andrew.

I decided to send Pastor Fisk a question on his contact page, to see if he might address it on a future show. The upper limit was 500 characters, so I had to really slice and slice to get it under the limit, but I'm decently happy with what I was able to send:

To say "adult baptism is God’s work" is nothing less than special pleading. Why can’t I assign the label “not my work; God's work” to other things? By this principle, I could consistently be a tithing-circumcisional-abstentional-regenerationist and still profess that I hold to sola fide. Please tell me why I'm wrong. If your answer includes 1 Peter 3:21 or Romans 6, please prove that those are definitely not Holy Spirit baptism (Matt 3) but are definitely water baptism.

17 comments:

  1. I'm not a Lutheran (rather, a Presbyterian), but if I were pastor Fisk, I'd file your request where I file the rest of the unserious "gotcha" nonsense that came across my comment feed.

    Why don't you already know his answer? Why don't you read their Confession, or attempt in any way to understand people with whom you disagree from within their circle? Your "critique" is wholly self-referential and self-serving; which is why it is unserious.

    You don't take the Lutheran seriously. You mock him, and demonstrate that you don't think his position is worth sober study. Where is your internal critique? You don't have to agree with a position to be "sympathetic" to it. But you need sympathy to treat it with respect.

    I've observed your oblivious interactions with Lutherans on other blogs. You seem utterly tone-deaf to their notions of "objectivity," and how that "works" within their hermeneutical system. In their view, baptism is DIFFERENT from other things, precisely because it is a SACRAMENT, and other things are NOT. So, it isn't "special pleading" to them. The Lutheran treats "Word & Sacrament" as a unique category--things to which God himself (per Scripture)--attaches his PROMISE. Despite your previous interactions, you appear to have no developed understanding of why this accusation carries no weight with them.

    You isolate the prooftexts you'd expect him to use (probably right), assuming he gave your comment a second glance; but you've already "poisoned the well" by prejudicing an either/or definitional dichotomy (Spirit/water) upon those texts. He'd only say, "I don't drive YOUR wedge between the natural and the spiritual works." How come you don't know this already? Or if you do know it, then your comment was just an appeal for attention. You merely gave the impression that you looking for a response that would teach you (or defend) Lutheran doctrine and practice.

    For the Lutheran, the Word is the Power of God to salvation. It is God's WORK, even as a human being might be doing the TALKING. There really isn't much to differentiate that understanding of a divine-appropriation of a human-occasion, from a typical Reformed view, or a Particular (LBCF) Baptist view.

    The Lutheran goes a step farther, when he speaks of a similar coordination between the human-occasion of water baptism and its (proposed) intersection with the divine-occasion of Spirit baptism. I'm going to disagree with him on a promissory necessity for divine action in conjunction with the human, because I don't believe in saving acts that are effectual for any but the elect; nor do I believe that the promises of God to the elect are tied temporally to the moment of baptism; but are made effectual by the Spirit's sovereign whim (neither do I have to divorce them from the baptismal event). That makes me a Presbyterian, not a Lutheran.

    Why aren't you intelligently critiquing the Lutheran coordination between 1) God's Word and man's word in preaching, and 2) between God's (Speech)-Act and man's (speech)-act in baptism? Because that's Fisk's answer to you. It's what people have answered you before, and either you just want to hear it again, or you just like the easy points you think you're scoring as you repeat yourself.

    Disappointing. Instead of trying to "gotcha" a Lutheran pastor, you could be teaching people who have a listening ear about what makes Reformed soteriology more coherent and satisfying than the Lutheran option--but only as far as you are able to accurately and sympathetically show your familiarity with that with which you disagree.

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    1. Well, I've asked the question several times and not seen a good answer, so...

      It was 500 characters only. Give me a break. I wanted to ask the question. The man seems knowledgeable and honest.

      Your "critique" is wholly self-referential and self-serving; which is why it is unserious.

      I appreciate the charitable attitude you display.


      You mock him,

      How? Where? Could you quote me?


      You seem utterly tone-deaf to their notions of "objectivity," and how that "works" within their hermeneutical system.

      Thanks for your opinion. I don't agree.


      In their view, baptism is DIFFERENT from other things, precisely because it is a SACRAMENT, and other things are NOT.

      Merely kicks the can down the road. Why can't I slap the "sacrament" label on those other things I mentioned?


      but you've already "poisoned the well" by prejudicing an either/or definitional dichotomy (Spirit/water

      It's not as if he couldn't say "both" and then defend the answer. I don't think he needs you to babysit him.


      How come you don't know this already?

      B/c I don't know a ton about Lutheran theology. I freely admit that.



      For the Lutheran, the Word is the Power of God to salvation. It is God's WORK, even as a human being might be doing the TALKING.

      Yes, I know that.
      Why can't I say:
      The Word is the Power of God to salvation. Thus abstention from evil thoughts/tithing/circumcision is God's WORK, even as a human being might be doing the TALKING/DOING.

      Right, there's no reason we can't say that. Which is why I want to know what Pastor Fisk will say.


      but are made effectual by the Spirit's sovereign whim (neither do I have to divorce them from the baptismal event)

      the problem for the Lutheran is that the Scripture specifically ties that to being born again, which is done on the Spirit's whim, as you said. Not on the basis of water baptism, a work.



      Why aren't you intelligently critiquing the Lutheran coordination between 1) God's Word and man's word in preaching, and 2) between God's (Speech)-Act and man's (speech)-act in baptism? Because that's Fisk's answer to you.

      How much of my interactions with Lutherans have you read?



      It's what people have answered you before

      See, that's the thing. They haven't answered that before. It's cool that you think they did, but it's incorrect.


      Instead of trying to "gotcha" a Lutheran pastor, you could be teaching people who have a listening ear about what makes Reformed soteriology more coherent and satisfying than the Lutheran option

      And how can I do that unless I get some answers about Lutheran theology that make sense?


      but only as far as you are able to accurately and sympathetically show your familiarity with that with which you disagree.

      Sadly, you've proven a poor example to follow in that regard.

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    2. "You seem utterly tone-deaf to their notions of "objectivity," and how that "works" within their hermeneutical system."

      Thanks for your opinion. I don't agree.

      Don't agree with what? My observation that you don't understand them, or that there's an internal coherence of a sort within their own framework? By your own admission, you're clearly not in a position to offer that strong critique.

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    3. "In their view, baptism is DIFFERENT from other things, precisely because it is a SACRAMENT, and other things are NOT."

      Merely kicks the can down the road. Why can't I slap the "sacrament" label on those other things I mentioned?

      Is this a serious response? "Why can't I...?" Why shouldn't you call any three persons you can think of "the Trinity?" Because if you can't speak theological language--biblical, systematic, historical, and practical--you ought to pipe down until you have the tools. You and I are jonny-come-latelys to the theological discussion; so we don't get to set the linguistic parameters.

      THAT's why you don't get to slap a specified label on any old practice you choose; one way or another, you'll be talking to yourself alone. Like it or not, the church down through history, of any branch you care to name, has understood Christ himself to have granted unique status to these two: Baptism and the Lord's Supper. They get special treatment in the Bible, and they aren't just like every other Christian practice, in or out of the church.

      If you truly wanted a more inclusive definition of "sacrament," you might be able to interest a Papist in that possibility. If an essential part of your argument is that the word/concept "sacrament" is unhelpful, then you have an automatic problem communicating within the stream of the historic conversation. You say you can't get a "good" answer from asking Lutherans the question several times, in their own houses. From the looks of things, a significant handicap is you can't understand the responses given by people who are using the lingua franca. That's not their fault.

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    4. "but are made effectual by the Spirit's sovereign whim (neither do I have to divorce them from the baptismal event)"

      the problem for the Lutheran is that the Scripture specifically ties that to being born again, which is done on the Spirit's whim, as you said. Not on the basis of water baptism, a work.

      Except, it isn't a problem FOR HIM in his own mind. These people sincerely believe they are taking the Bible seriously when they say the Spirit ties himself to the mundane element of water. They see it as a blessed accommodation to human weakness. They say, "The Bible says regeneration happens then and there, in conjunction with the Word. Who are we to say otherwise?" They see a Reformed answer (or a Baptist's, which they cannot or will not distinguish) as the one doing less or more "contortions" to the text.

      Thus, on the lowest level they deny that the human action, which is coordinate to the divine action, is effectual. But in terms of God's will to act there, he brings his work about through the man and the medium of water. The Spirit "blows where he wills," and he wills at the waters of baptism--that's how they read Jn.3:5 in conj. w/ v8. They don't think of this as a "human work," just human instrumentation, because the church is God's official organ of activity in the earth.

      Baptism happens to a passive recipient (of any age), so it can't be a work of HIS; any more than the passive hearing of the Truth that brings salvation was HIS. They reckon FAITH is bestowed on recipients monergistically, whether in the act of preaching, or in the act of baptism.

      They don't exactly have the same fault as those who have confidence in the flesh, Rom.2:25ff, because of their doctrine of apostasy. They teach that baptism must have a lasting faith-component (wrought by the Spirit of course) or it won't avail. There is incoherence here, but it is a problem of their doctrine of the universal and objective efficacy of the means of grace not being limited (salvifically) to the elect.



      Bottom line is: your critique of the Lutheran position here and elsewhere (e.g. Triblogue combox, Beggars All combox, Cranach conbox, etc.) is bold, strident, and all out of proportion to your limited breadth of knowledge of that tradition. It isn't surprising that respondents there just do the eyeroll when you come in their house to educate, er... ask them questions. It doesn't seem serious to them.

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    5. "Why can't I...?" Why shouldn't you call any three persons you can think of "the Trinity?"

      LOL that's your best reply?
      I'm sorry you're unfamiliar with the notion of reductio ad absurdum. Maybe you could look it up.


      you'll be talking to yourself alone.

      Ah darn, I forgot something has to be believed by lots of people for it to be true.


      Like it or not, the church down through history, of any branch you care to name, has understood Christ himself to have granted unique status to these two: Baptism and the Lord's Supper.

      And what has that to do with my question?



      If you truly wanted a more inclusive definition of "sacrament," you might be able to interest a Papist in that possibility.

      Lutheran theology is distressingly similar to Papism in the area of baptism, which is one reason why I am asking about it.



      That's not their fault.

      Yes. Apparently everything is my fault.


      Except, it isn't a problem FOR HIM in his own mind.

      Hahahahaha. That's a perfect response if my question included verbiage like "In your own mind, is that a problem?"



      These people sincerely believe they are taking the Bible seriously when they say the Spirit ties himself to the mundane element of water.

      And I'm trying to help them see that's false. Did you know that people can be sincerely wrong?



      They don't think of this as a "human work,"

      If you read my question, you'll see I took that into account.


      Baptism happens to a passive recipient (of any age)

      That is false, in the case of adults. Adults decide to go to the baptistry, decide to go under the water, etc.


      They don't exactly have the same fault as those who have confidence in the flesh, Rom.2:25ff, because of their doctrine of apostasy.

      A theology marred by a jacked-up doctrine of baptism isn't improved by MORE falsehood. How is that helpful?


      Bottom line is: your critique of the Lutheran position here and elsewhere (e.g. Triblogue combox, Beggars All combox, Cranach conbox, etc.) is bold, strident, and all out of proportion to your limited breadth of knowledge of that tradition.

      You've certainly shown the way with your criticism of me. I appreciate the exemplification. You seem blind to how unnecessarily strident and nasty you have been to me from the beginning.

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  3. I commend you Bruce!

    Rhology, take a lap and cool down. Bruce has given you some good stuff to help you along the way! Now, of course you can do with it whatever you will.

    Having similar feelings or observations about you in the blogs mentioned and when you have called Dr. White, I pause and take notice when someone else is sensing and in this case saying similar things about you.

    These verses I believe might help you reconsider what Bruce has shared with you. He is to be commended to even take the time and do it!

    1Co 10:32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God,
    1Co 10:33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

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    1. Rhology, take a lap and cool down.

      Um, he was the one who exploded all over me, not the other way around.


      when you have called Dr. White

      What in the world did I say of any offense when I called Dr White? I have those recordings; I'll be happy to furnish them so you can substantiate your out-of-nowhere criticism.

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  4. Oh my goodness, someone is wrong on the internet! http://xkcd.com/386/

    Last post. I've ignored my own counsel to remember I'm a guest here, not a teacher.

    I've already failed according to Prv.11:2, "When pride comes, then comes disgrace."

    I should not have felt disgraced by the comment if I weren't too proud to begin with.

    My words in reaction weren't cool and measured, and limited; but hot, angry, embarrassed.

    No accuracy in them or commendation of them can remedy them, "A fool multiplies words," Ecc.10:14.

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  5. Rhology,

    Maybe Fisk will give you a good reply that will help change the way you see things. Lord knows I tried!

    Hey, I just saw this post on Paul McCain's blog and I thought you'd appreciate it. Its from a sermon Luther preached one year before he died. It goes right along with what I've told you about our confession being not "I was baptized" but "I am baptized":

    http://cyberbrethren.com/2013/02/27/where-are-the-fruits-demonstrating-that-you-truly-believe

    That's all I'll be saying here. Need to focus on other stuff...

    Best regards,
    Nathan

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    1. Paul McCain...
      I'll try to read it with a semi-open mind. His prior actions make it difficult.

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    2. OK, I read it and remain entirely confused.
      Brother Luther might have profited from reading 1 John another time or two. And Romans 6.

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  6. by the way, I am infanttheology Nathan... signed in under a different name I see.

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  7. Rho,

    I did not think you'd find it confusing but would like it.

    The point being that the those who have true faith are concerned that they demonstrate their faith by works - they realize faith and works go hand and hand and make their confession believable. Those who don't have true faith don't have this concerned - even if they were at one point baptized.

    +Nathan

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    1. Ah, I see. Thanks for the clarification.

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