A Jagged Word


“Now, the great temptation of justification by faith apart from works is to confuse faith in Christ’s promise (the Lutheran teaching) with faith in faith itself (enthusiasm). That is to reject the materialism of faith for idealism. That basic ‘slippage’ from the object of faith to the subject has dogged Protestantism from the beginning and given faith a bad name. American Protestants are infamous for making faith into a work – admittedly not a very hard one, but a work nevertheless, that decides for Christ or establishes a personal relation with him, or examines itself for evidence of faith. Baptism gives something to believe in. Faith needs a thing, otherwise it curls back into itself and repeats the sin of Adam. Yet it is not as if just anything will do. Baptism is God removing the many wrong things people believe in, and giving the one right thing for faith to cling to – a word from God in which God is justified for what he is doing. The promise of baptism relies only on the faithfulness of its giver. The reason God’s promise is the right thing for faith is that God keeps his promise – all other promisors in life end up lying because they are slaves to sin and death.”

Steven Paulson, “Lutheran Theology” (165-166)