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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

25 July 2005

Lutheran and Baptist Compared (Briefly)

Q: Could you compare Lutheran beliefs to Baptist beliefs?

A: This is something that I can only do in part. It is not only because I am more familiar with Lutheran teaching than with Baptist, but also because there are many varieties of teaching which are included under the heading of Baptist. Without going into great detail, these generally fall into one of two camps. One follows the general teachings of Arminius and is essentially “freewill” Baptist. The other party echoes the teachings of Calvin and is generally double-predestinarian. However, since Baptist affiliation is so strongly voluntary, what might be a generality for a group is not always specific for an individual congregation or Baptist churchgoer.

There are also factions and differences among many Lutherans. With both Lutherans and Baptists, the differences within the two groups may be almost as numerous as are the differences between the two groups. Since I’m in The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod, my answers are from our understanding of the Church and Christian doctrine.

A few differences are quite pronounced. Lutherans are sacramental. Thus, we believe in baptismal regeneration and practice infant baptism, rather than the “believer’s baptism” normally used by Baptists. We believe that the forgiveness of sins (absolution) pronounced by our pastors in Christ’s stead is as valid and certain as if Christ himself stood speaking the words. We also believe that the very body and blood of Christ are really present under bread and wine in Holy Communion.

As a rule, we are liturgical. We tend to follow the ancient liturgies (orders of service) of the Christian Church, shaped from its earliest days and rooted even in Old Testament worship.

We preach (and try to practice) the freedom of the Gospel, rather than emphasizing rules. We believe it is not possible without faith to truly obey God, and that no works, no matter how good, have any impact upon our salvation. Thus, we tend to not say, “Thou shalt not,” do something unless the Bible says, “Thou shalt not,” and unless we can see clearly that the prohibition is valid under the New Testament and not only part of the Old Covenant.

We do not teach any form of “once saved, always saved.” Instead, we heed the warnings in Scripture that speak of the risk of losing our faith and being lost eternally.

Our pastors are trained and certified by our church and are normally called to “full time” positions. We are not usually involved in other work in order to feed ourselves and our families but are free for whatever spiritual needs our members have that need our attention. We believe that God calls pastors through action of his church in order to forgive sins and that when they speak God’s Word of forgiveness to penitent sinners, it is as valid and certain as if Christ himself were speaking.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.


Blogger Mathew said...

The phrase, according to a pbs special on Typhopid Mary, "Cleanliness is next to godliness" was created by the New York sanitation department in the late 19th century.

26 July, 2005 12:10  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really liked your comments in "Lutheran and Baptist Compared (Briefly)".

I grew up in a baptist church and was taught very narrow-minded views of Scripture, other denominations, and followers of Christ.

Fortunately, I began thinking for myself when I turned 16 and have discovered the true blessing of Christian fellowship regardless of denomination. I have learned from my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. And now, I don't see denominational lines. I see my family. As a active member of a interdenominational church, I praise God for this community of believers.

I wish others would see the blessing of standing united as believers. Only then can we become friends with seekers who have been disillusioned with denominational lines and win them for the kingdom of God.

06 December, 2006 11:13  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Thanks. We are Baptist and my son wondered what the differences were between Lutherans and Baptists. Your answer was very helpful.

05 March, 2010 16:03  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would you categorize the LCMS with Calvin and his 5 points or with Arminius? Or something else entirely? Does the LCMS believe in predestination?

05 April, 2010 21:47  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is my belief that UNLESS you have asked Jesus Himself to forgive your sins (at an age when you realize your sinfulness - not as a baby) and the Holy Spirit comes and lives in your heart at the same time (which seals your "salvation"), you are NOT a Christian. There are many views on the miscellaneous items in the Bible - but it is necessary that the Gospel of Jesus Christ be the main emphasis in any church that claims to be Christian. That is what the Bible teaches and I believe the Bible comes straight from God the Father. It is God breathed.

29 September, 2011 20:56  
Blogger Gary said...

Five questions that Baptists and Evangelicals should ask themselves:

1. Does the Bible state that a sinner is capable of choosing righteousness/choosing God?

The Bible states that the sinner must believe and repent, but are these actions initiated and performed by man of his own intellectual abilities, or are faith, belief, and repentance a part of the entire "package" of salvation? Are faith, belief, and repentance part of the "free gift"? Does God give you faith, belief and repentance at the moment he "quickens" you, or does he require you to make a decision that you want them first, and only then does he give them to you.

2. Is there any passage of Scripture that describes salvation in the Baptist/evangelical terms of: "Accept Christ into your heart", "Make a decision for Christ", "Pray to God and ask him to forgive you of your sins, come into your heart, and be your Lord and Savior (the Sinner's Prayer)". Is it possible that being "born again" is something that God does at a time of his choosing, and not something that man decides to do at a time of his choosing? Is man an active participant in his salvation in that he cooperates with God in a decision to believe, or is man a passive participant in his salvation; God does ALL the work?

3. Is the Bible a static collection of words or do the Words of God have real power, real supernatural power? How does the Bible describe the Word? Is it the meaning of the Word that has power or do the words themselves have supernatural power to "quicken" the souls of sinners, creating faith, belief and repentance?

4. Does preaching the Word save everyone who hears it, or only the "predestined", the "elect", the "called", the "appointed" will believe when they hear the Word?

5. WHEN does the Bible, if read in its simple, plain, literal rendering, say that sins are forgiven and washed away?

Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals


19 July, 2013 00:13  

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