The Real reason there are no “Lutheran Baptists”: Martin Luther’s 500 year battle vs. Protestant liberalism? (part I of III)

14 Aug
Russel Moore, Lutheran Baptist?!

Russel Moore, Lutheran Baptist?!

Yes, I am picking up on this conversation a little late.  We’ll see if I totally missed the bus.

A couple things to start with.  First, I am sorry if the image above disturbed you.

Second, if seeing Christians disagreeing with or even criticizing other Christians over matters of doctrine only makes you angry – even if it is done in a kind and congenial manner – I urge you not to read this series.  I don’t like it either, but sometimes, as we well know, these things must be done.

As I have stated before: “our orientation should be to furiously emphasize our commonalities and to furiously emphasize our honest differences, because the truth not spoken – or rarely spoken – in love is not the fullness of love at all.  Even some in the unbelieving world know as much!  Do you, like me, think of the pagans’ words recorded by Tertullian: “See how they love one another!”?  I say yes!   Let us aim to love one another in truth as we patiently work through the tragic reality that there must be differences among us – to reveal who has God’s approval!” (quote from this post about the “coming vindication of Martin Luther”)

Onward then.

Some months ago, a couple of First Things writers, David Koyzis and Collin Garbarino, asked why there were “Calvinist Baptists” (guys like John McArhur, John Piper, Al Mohler, and Russel Moore come to mind), but no “Lutheran Baptists”.  According to the Lutheran writer Gene Veith’s summary (see here), Garbarino essentially said that “when it comes to soteriology… Calvinism and Lutheranism are pretty much the same anyway” and “Calvinism is the same as Lutheranism except without the sacraments”.

Gene Veith astutely commented:

“To understand Lutheranism, it is necessary to recognize that the Lutheran understanding of  salvation by grace and justification by faith cannot be separated from the Lutheran teachings of baptismal regeneration and the real presence of Christ in the bread and wine of Holy Communion.”

After the conversation got rolling in the wider Christian blogosphere, Joe Carter of the Gospel Coalition blog ranked Veith’s answer as the most helpful (see here).

It certainly was.  But the question now is “Why is what Dr. Veith says true?”  The answer may surprise you.

And we will definitely get to that, but first, enter Christopher Jackson, a Lutheran attending grad school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, home of the great Albert Mohler and Russel Moore (men, incidently, who I have come to respect and have much affection for – their timely and fearless voices have informed and inspired me).  Building on the “Why no Lutheran Calvinists” question, Jackson wrote an article that was also published on the First Things blog called A Lutheran Among Calvinists (Dr. Veith talked about it here), where he said that “Lutherans themselves are why there is not a ‘Lutheran’ movement in Baptist or other evangelical circles”, blaming the Lutheran tendency/obsession to constantly “articulate something distinctively Lutheran” vis a vis other church bodies, “self-marginaliz[ing] and render[ing] our theology unintelligible to other Christians”.

Yes, I can understand how persons might think that – especially in the historically non-Lutheran-dominated United States of America.  On the other hand, I think the White Horse Inn’s Rod Rosenbladt, for example, is not someone who is overly eager to get to “the Lutheran difference”.  Nor is Gene Veith for that matter.  If anything, I tend to think these men often remain silent when they could, in a firm, impassioned and yet sensitive way, point out “the Lutheran difference” when they are discussing theology publically with others.  To be sure, this does happen from time to time – particularly with Dr. Veith – but there have been times I have wanted to pull my hair out a bit, so much do they seem to be walking on eggshells.  And of course, when we are talking about wider Lutheranism, it is not uncommon to find many in that communion who either veer towards more Reformed views of the sacraments, or alternatively, to more Eastern Orthodox and Catholic views of soteriological and ecclesiastical matters.  It is hard to stay on the Lutheran horse without falling off on one side or the other (I’m Lutheran but…”)

Here is a thought: in spite of our commonalities – and in spite of the fact that we often subjectively recognize persons of a common Christian faith outside of our circles – could it be that Lutheran theology really is quite distinct from other bodies?   It is a question that Jackson, for one, does not seem to consider seriously:  “[Lutherans] are often more preoccupied with discussing what makes Lutheranism distinct from evangelicalism (for example, the sacraments) than with discussing points of commonality like Christology or Trinitarian theology”. 

Still, that sounds like a pretty reasonable critique doesn’t it?  Well, there are questions we need to address here, but first let give you a little bit more context to Jackson’s remarks.

In his article, he notes the interesting fact that “some faculty at SBTS have struck me as having profoundly Lutheran theological influences, most notably Russell Moore” and quotes him preaching on baptism and communion:


Here is Moore preaching on baptism:

The waters of baptism are announcing that we are not just found in Jesus’ death and burial, we are found in his Resurrection. . . . [Baptism] is an announcing and a proclamation that the life that you have doesn’t belong to you. It belongs in Christ. . . . It’s an announcement that God makes in those waters of baptism not just to the church, not just to you, not just to the neighborhood and the community, but to the demonic powers that accuse you. This is mine. I am showing you, he is mine. I am showing you, she is mine. It’s the voice of Christ, through a drama in water, challenging anybody to take that on.

And communion:

[In communion] Jesus is speaking to you, “My body was broken. When you swallow this juice, Jesus is speaking to you, my blood was shed for you, my veins were opened for you. There is no condemnation for you. Rest in the truth of the gospel. We don’t just hear that, we swallow it, as Jesus reminds us through physical stuff, that we need to hear and to remember and to think and to know, he announces that gospel. . . . There are some in this room who are filled with guilt and filled with accusation. You know Christ, but Satan is speaking to you, “You’re guilty.” Hear the Word of Christ, when he says this is my body given for you. My blood, it is poured out for you.

Jackson says that these sermons sound like they could have come from a Lutheran pulpit – Moore comes off “sounding like a Lutheran”.  In addition, he says that while “Moore’s sermon [on the Lord’s Supper] can be understood within a Calvinist view, absent are any of Calvin’s almost endless qualifications on the words, ‘This is my body. . . . This is my blood.’”  Jackson says he is familiar with several SBTS students who have actually become Lutherans, which he attributes in part to Moore and other “Lutheran influences”.

Montage of art from the Lutheran youth organization "Higher Things".

Montage of art from the Lutheran youth organization “Higher Things”.

Hmmm.  If that’s the case do I really want to keep writing this article – if Moore is serving as a recruiter for Lutheran pastors?

Yes.  Let’s get the cards out on the table and do so while simultaneously searching the Scriptures – no, clinging to them like our lives depend on them.  We’ll do that tomorrow.

Part II

Part III


Moore pic used with Luther:

Moore preaching:

Higher Things montage: from various sites online


Posted by on August 14, 2013 in Uncategorized


5 responses to “The Real reason there are no “Lutheran Baptists”: Martin Luther’s 500 year battle vs. Protestant liberalism? (part I of III)

  1. As It Is Written - Mark 1:2

    December 29, 2017 at 4:43 pm


    I found this blog post while searching for Baptist views on Dr. Jordan Peterson. As long as I am here, hope you won’t mind if I comment, as this blog post raised an issue I see as very important.

    I would have thought that there are no “Lutheran Baptists” boils down to the one simple fact that Baptists read the Bible as saying that for Christians there is no such thing as baptizing, and including in church membership, people who have never had any conscious, personal faith in Christ as Lord and Savior.

    Baptists believe that the only baptism taught in the Bible for Christians is “Believer’s Baptism.”

    This would be the very same reason that there are no “Lutheran Anabaptists.”

    The men of the Catholic infant baptism tradition (including Lutherans, Presbyterians) seem to defend infant baptism from the Bible mainly by reference to the Hebrew commandment and tradition of the circumcision of infants. But the New Testament seemingly destroys this argument by its generally negative view of circumcision, as in these verses:

    –“Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing.” (1 Corinthians 7:19)
    –“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” (Galatians 5:6)
    –“For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” (Galatians 6:15)
    –“For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision.” (Romans 2:25)
    –“For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart” (Romans 2:28-29)
    –“Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.” (Galatians 5:2)

    Have I missed something? Does not the whole thing boil down to this point of Biblical interpretation?

    The men of the Catholic infant baptism tradition interpret the Scriptures in light of a church tradition that is clearly evident in documents from a hundred or so years after the death of all the apostles.

    Lutherans and Presbyterians talk about “Sola Scriptura,” but do not follow that as regards things like infant baptism and church-state union, but instead follow the ancient Catholic tradition (which is ancient, but not as ancient as Christ, the Apostles and the New Testament).

    Baptists and Anabaptists, when interpreting the Scriptures, give no weight and not authority to these post-Biblical developments. They practice a true or truer “Sola Scriptura.”

    Isn’t that the simple, plain, and essential difference going on between traditional Baptists and Anabaptists on the one hand, and the men of the Catholic tradition or traditions on the other hand?

    I believe all this is explained well in Harold S. Bender’s famous 1944 essay titled “The Anabaptist Vision.”

    I think theologians turn many things into complicated theological debates, involving many complicated “-ologies,” because they view their vocation as being a leader in the endless intramural, internal theological debates, rather than their vocation as being the carrying out of the Great Commission of Christ.

    It’s sad when you see a young seminary graduate in the pulpit talking about theological debates he picked up from seminary, rather than preaching like the Apostles did, to turn hearts and souls to the unique faith in Christ and to the unique Christ Way of Life.

    • Nathan A. Rinne

      December 30, 2017 at 4:35 pm

      Mark 1:2,

      “Have I missed something? Does not the whole thing boil down to this point of Biblical interpretation?”

      Yes. No.

      I do think this series is exactly right (did you read all 3 parts?) and critical to the Gospel proclamation you rightly champion.

      Here is more related to baptism by itself though:

      Also, you say “Sola Scriptura” but we don’t mean the same thing. Here is more on that to:


      • As It Is Written - Mark 1:2

        December 30, 2017 at 5:50 pm

        “SCALES FELL FROM HIS EYES” (Acts 9:18)

        I did read the whole 3-article series on why there are not Lutheran-Baptists. I also read the two webpages you referred me to.

        I didn’t suppose my brief, inarticulate, inexpert earlier comment would convert you away from “Non-Believer’s Baptism” to exclusively “Believer’s Baptism.”

        I know that most Christians today either believe in infant baptism or don’t think it is a crucial issue.

        I can only testify that I felt something of a breakthrough, and a real growing closer to Christ, when I one day a fellow Christian showed me that Luther and Calvin, for all of their great contributions, retained some of the non-Biblical doctrines of Roman Catholic Church, particularly Infant Baptism, and the doctrine that Church-State Union is God’s Will and the Norm for all times.

        Once those doctrines of the “Sacred Tradition” are set aside, it was for me like scales falling from my eyes, enabling me to see more clearly and brightly the unique Christ Doctrines and unique Christ Way of Life that are taught and commanded in the Scriptures.

        I believe that Catholics, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Eastern Orthodox can really benefit by at least experimenting with reading the Scriptures in the way traditional, conservative Baptists or Anabaptists do, setting aside, at least temporarily, all doctrines that are not plainly taught in the Scriptures.

        To me, it’s like getting in a time machine and walking and sitting with the Apostles, those uneducated fishermen who were filled with the Spirit of God, and with that other Apostle who was a devout Jew who was an expert in the Law of Moses and a student of the great Rabbi Gamaliel.

        And suddenly all the complicated theological problems of the present and past centuries, and all the Christian religious wars, inquisitions, and conflicts dating from the 300s A.D. up to more recent times, just fall away, and only Christ, the Holy Word, remains.

        Well, it’s a thought. Best wishes.

  2. Nathan A. Rinne

    December 31, 2017 at 12:18 am

    Mark 1:2,

    I find it to be a rather horrifying thought.

    “I believe that Catholics, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Eastern Orthodox can really benefit by at least experimenting with reading the Scriptures in the way traditional, conservative Baptists or Anabaptists do, setting aside, at least temporarily, all doctrines that are not plainly taught in the Scriptures.”

    I’ve done this to a very large extent. Its one reason why I am where I am today.

    No, I think your thoughts are very dangerous and poisonous really. Hence that second article I linked you to above. Eventually, following this kind of thinking to its logical end, I think you end up here:



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