Friday, September 17, 2010

The same, but not at all

Another Friday night with four kids and yet another attempt to get out of the house by going to a restaurant. In the midst of the chaos and crazy kids, we wanted to buy a small treat/dessert. My wife reached in her pocket and gave what seemed to be a quarter, it was the same size, color and general look. However, the waiter realized that it was not American money, but a Jordanian coin. No, we have not taken a worldwide trip in the middle of having four kids in five years. The coin must have come from another store. No matter how much we would have argued that they looked the same, it would not have mattered, it is not the same. Yes they are both money and can be exchange, they are significantly different.

This moment reminds me of many people from our churches that leave the Lutheran faith and go to "non-denom" church down the road. They will proudly say, "Pastor, that church is basically the same, they just don't baptize infants." Hold the phone, since when has that been a minor theological issue? We are not discussing how they play the piano or where the pastor preaches out of, we are talking a significant difference.

Now before anybody says, "Pastor Finnern is saying non-denoms are not "Christian" let me remind everyone that disagreeing over theology does not imply we are denying the faith God gives. We can however argue/discuss why we think the others are wrong. This is my focus in this subject as I have heard the argument WAY TOO OFTEN. Here is why there is a more significant difference from a Lutheran and your typical non-denom:

1) How one comes to faith. If a church doesn't baptize infants, the most common argument is that babies can't have faith. If one does not believe that a baby can have faith, then I guess all people who can not speak, mentally handicapped, or on their death bed are out. This is a disturbing thought and much different than our understanding of faith being a gift from God alone.

2) Validity of God's work. If a church doesn't baptize infants, then they are saying that you aren't really baptized and God did nothing. That is kind of kick in the face and a huge difference.

3) Denial of God's Word. To look at I Peter 3:21 and Acts 2:38 and say that nothing happens in baptism and/or it is not for children because they don't understand is a direct denial of God's Word and the power it has. It also jumps over Romans 10:17 and faith coming from hearing the Word.

Unfortunately, I have to admit that I have made similar statements in my past. "We are all pretty much the same, don't worry about it" I would say. Until someone told me that because I had not had an "experience" I was not a true believer. That hit me hard and I knew what it was like to be judged by a Pharisee and also how often I had judged without mercy. This theological issue is one that has huge implications, huge differences, and although we are all Christians it does not mean that we would say theyare wrong on this issue.

I covet everyone's evaluation, prayers, and discernment over your church and her beliefs. Dig into God's Word and make sure the truth is being taught, especially when it comes to things like baptism and how receives faith!

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