Sunday, May 26, 2024

The Day Of Salvation Is Several Months From Now

I recently came across an article I'd read many years ago about the conversion of Bernard Nathanson, a former abortion doctor, to Roman Catholicism. The article quotes some comments he made about his upcoming baptism: "'I will be free from sin,' he says. 'For the first time in my life, I will feel the shelter and warmth of faith.'" That's an illustration of a point I've made before about how baptismal regeneration interferes with the Biblical theme of the nearness of redemption.

The title of this post is meant to draw attention to the contrast between the Biblical theme of the nearness of redemption, such as the reference to how "now is 'the day of salvation'" in 2 Corinthians 6:2, and the absurd putting of off redemption under baptismal regeneration. The inconsistency between baptismal regeneration and how Jesus redeemed people independent of baptism in the gospels led Tertullian to concede to the critics of baptismal regeneration in his day, "Grant that, in days gone by, there was salvation by means of bare faith, before the passion and resurrection of the Lord." (On Baptism, 13) But John's gospel emphasizes Jesus' statements about salvation during his earthly ministry (John 3:16, 5:24, 11:25-26, etc.), and John tells us that he wrote his gospel to lead people to salvation (John 20:31), using language similar to Jesus' language earlier in the gospel. If the means of being justified had changed so much after the resurrection, then John's emphasis on Jesus' pre-resurrection teachings about justification makes less sense. Paul, like Jesus and others, thought of Abraham as the Christian's spiritual father, citing Genesis 15:6 as the paradigm example of how we're justified. No baptism was involved, and the phenomenon of justification apart from baptism continues beyond the gospels (Cornelius, Paul's expectation of the reception of the Spirit "when you believed" in Acts 19:2, Galatians 3:2, etc.). The reason why Abraham, the tax collector in Luke 18, and Cornelius are all justified through faith alone rather than through faith and baptism is that it's how God has been justifying people "from the beginning" (Clement of Rome, First Clement, 32). They're not exceptions. They're the rule.

As I've discussed elsewhere, there are many problems with baptismal regeneration. Its inconsistency with the Biblical theme of the nearness of redemption is one that gets discussed far less than it should. As I mentioned in a post last year, we've seen many and widely contradictory views of the efficaciousness of baptism over the centuries, and, unsurprisingly, it also became popular to add various other works along with baptism as initiatory rites, means of receiving the Holy Spirit, means of remitting sin, etc. Once the door is opened to making baptism a means of obtaining justification, people often let other works through the door as well. The response to somebody like Bernard Nathanson isn't to tell him to wait several months for baptism or whatever other initiatory rite or group of rites. You tell him, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace." (Luke 7:50)


  1. Jason,

    I've been interested in the doctrine of justification lately, especially how it contrasts with the Roman Catholic view, and your posts on justification never fail to be insightful. You almost always say something I haven't heard before. Do you have any good book recommendations?

    Also, have you listened to this dialogue between Parker Settecase and Guillaume Bignon:

    I found it quite insightful. I know Bignon is writing a book on justification. I hope you reach out to him. I think you can provide some valuable insights.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement.

      The information is scattered across a lot of books and other sources. I've cited a lot of them in my posts on justification, so you could go to whichever of those posts cover the topics you're interested in and get the sources there. Some of the material isn't covered in any book I'm aware of.

      I have listened to the discussion between Parker Settecase and Guillaume Bignon.

  2. I feel like I should know the answer to this already: Jason, are you a credobaptist or a pedobaptist?

    1. I'm a credobaptist. Here's a post in which I discussed some of the issues involved.