Saturday, January 06, 2007

Of Necessity and Wetness: Part 3

Here is the third installment in my debate with "gonzoguy" at the Relevant Magazine "God" board. Also see Parts One and Two.
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Some good stuff, you definitely made me think a lot more in depth about this. I don't have time to dissect your post(s) like I did the first time, but I do want to say a couple of things.
I would appreciate a more comprehensive response, if you ever find the time. I made a lot of good points that you haven't addressed.
First, I think we may be in more agreement than either of us initially thought, that is to say, we both value baptism and believe that it has power to bring about real change - at the very least.
It is good to read this.
Second, on many of those verses, neither of us is likely to "prove" the other wrong. The interpretative framework you approach the text with will determine what you take away from the text. So, from your Catholic background, you are obviously going to approach the text with the assumption (I am not using this word negatively by the way) that baptism is a necessary part of salvation; whereas, as a Protestant, I approach the text with the assumption that Jesus alone saves.
Well, I'm not so quick to consider this a lost cause. Minds can always be changed, be it by grace, or a preponderance of evidence, or both. Also, I don't agree that this debate is simply proof of our presuppositions at work. I have tried hard in this thread to show that my conclusion comes from what Scripture is trying to say (exegesis), not simply from whatever meaning I would like to impose upon the text (eisegesis).
I agree with everything you said here (except the part about the Sacraments saving). It is because of Christ and his work on the cross that gives baptism its value. However, this still does not demonstrate that baptism is a necessary component of salvation, only that baptism holds a certain degree of value.
Well, one of your arguments against the necessity of baptism was that it denies the work of Christ on the Cross. So, by showing that baptism does not in fact deny Christ's work, I undercut that argument.
I am willing to say that the Sacraments aid in sanctification, but they cannot be part of the equation in Justification. Justification comes through Christ alone, not Christ alone + baptism + any other sacraments.
I think it would be helpful here if we both define what we mean by "justification" and "sanctification," and perhaps "salvation" as well.

Here are my simple definitions:
  • justification: the act of making man to be in right standing before God, or in a relationship that is deserving of heaven. We achieve this right standing through sanctification.
  • sanctification: the act of infusing man with grace and cleansing him of all sin. Once we are cleansed of all sin, we are justified before God.
  • salvation: certitude of heaven as man's eternal reward.
Now, with these definitions, I assert that baptism does all three. It cleanses us of all sin (sanctification) and places us in right standing before God (justification). If we die in this state, heaven will be our eternal reward (salvation). Note that this is a moral certitutde, not an ultimate assurance, since we can fall from this state before our death. Now, I don't want to get into a debate on OSAS ("once saved, always saved"). I just thought it would be helpful to define my terms.

I also assert that baptism is necessary for salvation. As Vern said, original sin comes into play here. Here is my basic reasoning.

1. Every man is born with original sin
2. When he grows to the age of reason, he will commit actual sins as well.
3. Any man with sin on his soul cannot enter heaven.
4. Baptism cleanses man of all sin--original and actual.
5. Thus, Baptism is necessary for salvation.

Eventually, the other sacraments become "necessary for salvation" as well, insofar as they help us to maintain the state that we first received through baptism. In my next post, in response to "DownByTheRiver," I'll explain how that works.
The reason is very simple, if the sacraments become a necessary part of our justification (salvation) they must be made universal requirements just as faith in Jesus is a universal requirement for salvation.
Baptism IS a universal requirement. For one, Jesus told the apostles to baptize "all nations" (Mt 28:19). Also, "devout men from every nation under heaven" (Acts 2:5) were present when Peter told the crowd to "repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). Note also that this promise was "to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him" (Acts 2:39). All of this shows the universality of the sacrament of Baptism.

Also, note that there can be more than one universal requirement for salvation. It's ok to hold that faith is a requirement, and that something else is too. That's why I provided that list in my earlier post of the various things one must do to inherit eternal life.
However, again, as has already been demonstrated, there are certainly times when salvation has been proclaimed to those who do not have the ability to fulfill these sacraments.
I never denied that. Whenever I say "baptism is necessary for salvation" I mean this normatively speaking. In other words, I acknowledge that, as with all rules, there are exceptions, but the common means for salvation that God intended is baptism.
We have two options here:
1. Christ + Sacraments = Salvation most of the time (with a few exceptions)
2. Christ alone saves (or justifies) and the sacraments sanctify.
I don't understand your use of "save" and "justify" as synonyms, and your separation of these from the word "sanctify." You'll have to explain that to me first.
I suppose here the discussion takes a turn towards what salvation is (which you had touched on in your post). I suppose, to simplify things a bit, salvation can take three different forms:
1. A single moment whereby the believer proclaims Jesus as Lord
2. A lifetime of proclaiming Jesus as Lord.
3. Both/and

I believe the third option to be the most accurate as we see that at some point there is a definite point/moment when we say "Yes" to Jesus, but at that same time we continue in this saying "Yes" on a daily basis as we continually submit our lives to him.
I agree.
Now, if we look at salvation as both a single moment and also a lifestyle I suppose that to an even greater degree I agree that the sacraments save. That said, however, I must maintain my position and say that even though they may have an inherent saving quality (because of Christ), failure to participate in the sacraments does not and cannot keep us from Christ. For in the same way we can say that it is because of Christ's work on the cross that works have value (this would be true would it not?), yet we would not argue that works save us.

Get what I am saying?
I understand what you're saying, I just don't agree. Well, I agree with everything in this quote up to the word "failure." If Jesus says you can't enter the kingdom of God unless you're born of water and the Spirit (baptism) and we, as people knowledgeable of this truth, do not act accordingly, then we are in danger of separating ourselves from Christ. Since you said "sacraments" (in the plural), I'll mention the Eucharist too. Jesus said, "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him" (Jn 6:56) and if you don't "you have no life in you" (Jn 6:53). It doesn't look like we can fail to participate in that sacrament either.

Failure to participate in the sacraments is a big deal, and it's all very biblical.

Finally, regarding what you said about not being able to say that works save, I think we can say that, as long as we understand that they save only by the power of God. Like I said in my earlier post, it's ok to say that something saves in a secondary sense, like when Paul says that he saves people and that the husband will save his wife. This is important because it is in this sense that Catholics say that "baptism saves." When it comes to the primary mover, this is, and will always be, Jesus Christ. There is no Jesus plus anything, so you don't have to worry about Catholic sacramentalism taking away from Christ's work or his role as Savior.

Pax Christi,


Laura said...

Reading this post almost makes me want to read through the rest of it. .. almost. Nice work, buddy. :) If I had the patience, I might like to go to school to learn how to do that too.

I have to say though.. your first response to him (the first part of this post in response to him) sounds a little bit rude (upon first reading it).

Crafty P said...

well said.
I love reading your debates.

Plus, it's nice to see another Catholic who reads and visits Relevant's website/magazine.

A long time ago I added my church to their church search thingy. There were NO Catholic Churches in there at the time.


Jason said...

Besides phatcatholic and myself, there are at least three or four other Catholics who are pretty active. One of them is a former Army sargeant who's about to be ordained a priest. Can't remember his handle, but he's probably contributed to the Baptism thread. Iconodule is a convert to Orthodoxy and his wife is still Protestant, so he makes some good balanced comments. My handle is DudeFromLouisville, but I haven't had time to read this thread.

If you get a chance, there's another good thread from a month ago on Marian devotion.

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