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Lutherans and Calvinists

Question

What do Lutherans and Calvinists say about baptism? What do we receive at baptism?

Answer

Lutheranism teaches that baptism is necessary for salvation, and that God’s grace is offered through it (Augsburg Confession, IX). However, if baptism is unavailable, salvation will not be denied to the person concerned – so therefore baptism is not absolutely necessary. The Lutheran Church teaches that the person baptized receives God’s promise of salvation, and that faith is received by that person to enable them to respond to God’s grace. To my mind, this differs little from the Catholic view of baptism: in order to be saved, you generally need to be baptized; and if you are baptized, God will ensure that you get to Heaven. The Lutheran and Catholic views of baptism seem to me to suggest that, since both Hitler and Stalin were baptized, Lutherans and Catholics believe that these two gentlemen are well on their way to Heaven.

The traditional Calvinist conception is that baptism is not necessary for salvation, but that it would be a sin to neglect it (Westminster Confession, 28.5). Baptism is, however, efficacious, because if it is used in the right way, the person baptized will receive God’s grace at God’s appointed time (ibid., 28.6).

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