It was a clown that first helped me see there is more than a rift, more than a divide, there is a chasm between Reformed and Lutheran.
I was at a birthday party for a member’s child 15 or more years ago. It was at a local rec center. There was a clown. He was doing a great job clowning around as one would expect from a clown. He came up to me rapidly magically, twisting a long balloon into a short animal. His opening words were, “You’re going to love this.” If you are in a clerical collar and a stranger says this to you, it is almost a given that you will not “like” let alone “love” whatever is about to be proffered.
Still holding the animal formerly a balloon, he says, “I hold up the balloon, and I make like I’m sprinkling water on it. Then I say, ‘There I’ve baptized it. Now boys and girls is he saved?’ Then I say, ‘No he needs to have a personal relationship with Jesus.’”
In fairness to this theologian formerly a clown, I can’t remember after all these years what his final words were. It might have been, “He needs to ask Jesus into his heart,” or even worse I vaguely remember the clown saying, “No, what could a little water do?” In fairness to my memory, it might be do more to a rage blackout than a memory lapse.
I launched. “How dare you make these little children of Jesus doubt the power of their Baptism to save! How dare you deny what Scripture plainly says, “Baptism does also now save us.”
At this point, the clown/theologian was physically backing up from the pastor/pit-bull. “Hey, hey I didn’t mean anything. I wasn’t trying…” I didn’t let him finish. I said, “Do you see me going around trying to make balloon animals? Why don’t you stick to making them and let me do the teaching.” At that we parted. He to clown and me to explain to the hostess why there were “tears” from this clown when so many people were around.
As I said, a clown first said it. Fast forward to the October 24, 2009 issue of World magazine, page 75, and the article “Pioneering saint” by Andree Seu. She is telling the tale of Thein Htay a Burmese doctor turned evangelist. Converted to Christianity by The Navigators he was removed from “his Sunday School position, the pastor being uncomfortable with his suggestion that salvation lies in relationship with Jesus and not in being baptized. Htay looked around in horror at his church and realized, ‘They are all going to hell.’”
Seu relates this tale with no qualification, no innuendo, no apology that perhaps Htay was wrong. She goes on to praise him for his starting of “ministries” and orphanages and how he lived and was supported “’by faith.’”
Here is the divide between Reformed and Lutheran. Many think it is a mile wide but only inches deep. No, it appears only a mile wide because the Reformed are willing to speak about Baptism in the same terms we do even calling it a means of grace. But the width of the divide is not near as important as the depth. It’s not inches deep but miles.
From the deep gulf between Baptism being your salvation because it puts Christ on you (Galatians 3:27), and believing that trusting in your Baptism means you’re going to hell a whole Babylon of errors can and do multiply and thrive. It’s the difference between an act of God saving you and your actions doing it. What we do, decide, and even believe is always riddled with uncertainty. What God does is certain.
Even though a clown first said that Baptism doesn’t save you, it’s not funny; it’s sad. Clowns may or may not tear up when no one else is around, but simple, baptized children of God will tear up when this sort of clown is around.
Worthy of more than misty eyes is the fact that the official Pastor’s Conference of Texas District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod’s had Max Lucado as keynote speaker. Lucado is a pastor in the denomination which goes out of it’s way to attack baptismal regeneration (Church of Christ). Google his name; see how many LCMS churches regularly use his books for “Bible” study.
“But we don’t study what he has to say about Baptism.” Only a clown would fail to see that what you believe makes you a Christian impacts the rest of your Christianity. This error is like a clown car. You won’t believe how many “clowns” will come out of it, but not a one of them will be funny.