Questions and Answers about Baptism
Andy Wrasman (Concordia Univ. Irvine, Spring 2006)
Questions and Answers about Baptism
Answered from the Canonical Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions
The quotes from the Lutheran confessions are in the public domain and may be copied and distributed freely. The source of these translations is Triglot Concordia: The Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921).
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. NIV. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by the International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
What is Baptism?
From this now learn a proper understanding of the subject, and how to answer the question what Baptism is, namely thus, that it is not mere ordinary water, but water comprehended in God’s Word and command, and sanctified thereby, so that it is nothing else than a divine water; not that the water in itself is nobler than other water, but that God’s Word and command are added. (LC 4:14)
Therefore I exhort again that these two, the water and the Word, by no means be separated from one another and parted. For if the Word is separated from it, the water is the same as that with which the servant cooks’ and may indeed be called a bath-keeper’s baptism. But when it is added, as God has ordained, it is a Sacrament, and is called Christ-baptism. (LC 4:22)
Baptism is not simple water only, but it is the water comprehended in God’s command and connected with God’s Word.Which is that word of God?—Answer. Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Matthew: Go ye into all the world and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. (SC SHB: 1-4)
Baptism is nothing else than the Word of God in the water, commanded by His institution, or, as Paul says, a washing in the Word; as also Augustine says: Let the Word come to the element, and it becomes a Sacrament. (SA 5:1)
Who gave us Baptism?
In the first place, we must above all things know well the words upon which Baptism is founded, and to which everything refers that is to be said on the subject, namely, where the Lord Christ speaks in Matthew 28, 19: Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Likewise in St. Mark 16, 16: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. In these words you must note, in the first place, that here stand God’s commandment and institution, lest we doubt that Baptism is divine, not devised nor invented by men. For as truly as I can say, No man has spun the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer out of his head, but they are revealed and given by God Himself, so also I can boast that Baptism is no human trifle, but instituted by God Himself, moreover, that it is most solemnly and strictly commanded that we must be baptized or we cannot be saved, lest any one regard it as a trifling matter, like putting on a new red coat. For it is of the greatest importance that we esteem Baptism excellent, glorious, and exalted, for which we contend and fight chiefly, because the world is now so full of sects clamoring that Baptism is an external thing, and that external things are of no benefit. But let it be ever so much an external thing, here stand God’s Word and command which institute, establish, and confirm Baptism. But what God institutes and commands cannot be a vain, but must be a most precious thing, though in appearance it were of less value than a straw. (LC 4:3-8, italics added for emphasis)
What then are the benefits of Baptism?
It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare. (SC SHB: 6)
But where the name of God is, there must be also life and salvation, that it may indeed be called a divine, blessed, fruitful, and gracious water; for by the Word such power is imparted to Baptism that it is a laver of regeneration, as St. Paul also calls it, Titus 3, 5. (LC 4:27)
Thus it appears what a great, excellent thing Baptism is, which delivers us from the jaws of the devil and makes us God’s own, suppresses and takes away sin, and then daily strengthens the new man; and is and remains ever efficacious until we pass from this estate of misery to eternal glory. (LC 4:83)
Where is this found in scripture?
· Forgiveness of Sins
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38, italics added for emphasis)
And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name. (Acts 22:16, italics added for emphasis)
· Rescues from death and the devil.
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. (Romans 6:3-5)
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption,the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14)
In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature,not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:11-12)
· Eternal Life
For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him. (1 Peter 3:18-22, italics added for emphasis)
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-7)
Who receives the benefits of Baptism?
It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare. Which are these words and promises of God? Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Mark: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). (SC SHB: 6-8)
Thus faith clings to the water, and believes that it is Baptism, in which there is pure salvation and life; not through the water (as we have sufficiently stated), but through the fact that it is embodied in the Word and institution of God, and the name of God inheres in it. (LC 4:29)
This is again most beautifully and clearly expressed in the words: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. That is, faith alone makes the person worthy to receive profitably the saving, divine water. For, since these blessings are here presented and promised in the words in and with the water, they cannot be received in any other way than by believing them with the heart. Without faith it profits nothing, notwithstanding it is in itself a divine superabundant treasure. Therefore this single word (He that believeth) effects this much that it excludes and repels all works which we can do, in the opinion that we obtain and merit salvation by them. For it is determined that whatever is not faith avails nothing nor receives anything. (LC 4:33-34)
Does this faith constitute Baptism or make it valid?
Further, we say that we are not so much concerned to know whether the person baptized believes or not; for on that account Baptism does not become invalid; but everything depends upon the Word and command of God. (LC 4:52)
Therefore let it be decided that Baptism always remains true, retains its full essence, even though a single person should be baptized, and he, in addition, should not believe truly. For God’s ordinance and Word cannot be made variable or be altered by men. (LC 4:60)
Whose work is Baptism?
A Sacrament is a ceremony or work in which God presents to us that which the promise annexed to the ceremony offers; as, Baptism is a work, not which we offer to God, but in which God baptizes us, i.e., a minister in the place of God; and God here offers and presents the remission of sins, etc., according to the promise, Mark 16, 16: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. A sacrifice, on the contrary, is a ceremony or work which we render God in order to afford Him honor. (AAC 24:18)
For to be baptized in the name of God is to be baptized not by men, but by God Himself. Therefore, although it is performed by human hands, it is nevertheless truly God’s own work. (LC 4:10)
Thus you see plainly that there is here no work done by us, but a treasure which He gives us, and which faith apprehends; just as the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross is not a work, but a treasure comprehended in the Word, and offered to us and received by faith. (LC 4:37)
What if someone falls away from the faith? Should they be baptized again?
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:3-5, italics added for emphasis)
Therefore our Baptism abides forever; and even though some one should fall from it and sin, nevertheless we always have access thereto, that we may again subdue the old man. But we need not again be sprinkled with water; for though we were put under the water a hundred times, it would nevertheless be only one Baptism, although the operation and signification continue and remain. Repentance, therefore, is nothing else than a return and approach to Baptism, that we repeat and practice what we began before, but abandoned. (LC 4:77-79)
But if any one fall away from it, let him again come into it. For just as Christ, the Mercy-seat, does not recede from us or forbid us to come to Him again, even though we sin, so all His treasure and gifts also remain. If, therefore, we have once in Baptism
obtained forgiveness of sin, it will remain every day, as long as we live, that is, as long as we carry the old man about our neck. (LC 4:86)
But when the baptized have acted against their conscience, allowed sin to rule in them, and thus have grieved and lost the Holy Ghost in them, they need not be rebaptized, but must be converted again, as has been sufficiently said before. (SD 2:69)
If Baptism always remains, what is the role of Baptism in the Christian’s daily life?
But the act or ceremony is this, that we are sunk under the water, which passes over us, and afterwards are drawn out again. These two parts, to be sunk under the water and drawn out again, signify the power and operation of Baptism, which is nothing else than putting to death the old Adam, and after that the resurrection of the new man, both of which must take place in us all our lives, so that a truly Christian life is nothing else than a daily baptism, once begun and ever to be continued. For this must be practiced without ceasing, that we ever keep purging away whatever is of the old Adam, and that that which belongs to the new man come forth. (LC 4:65)
Should children be baptized?
Of Baptism they teach that it is necessary to salvation, and that through Baptism is offered the grace of God, and that children are to be baptized who, being offered to God through Baptism are received into God’s grace. (AC 9:1-2)
Of the baptism of children we hold that children ought to be baptized. For they belong to the promised redemption made through Christ, and the Church should administer it [Baptism and the announcement of that promise] to them. (SA 5:4)
Does this mean that children are part of the command to baptize all nations?
For it is very certain that the promise of salvation pertains also to little children [that the divine promises of grace and of the Holy Ghost belong not alone to the old, but also to children]. It does not, however, pertain to those who are outside of Christ’s Church, where there is neither Word nor Sacraments, because the kingdom of Christ exists only with the Word and Sacraments. Therefore it is necessary to baptize little children, that the promise of salvation may be applied to them, according to Christ’s command, Matt. 28, 19: Baptize all nations. Just as here salvation is offered to all, so Baptism is offered to all, to men, women, children, infants. It clearly follows, therefore, that infants are to be baptized, because with Baptism salvation [the universal grace and treasure of the Gospel] is offered. (AAC 9:2)
“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:36-39, italics added for emphasis)
Does this mean that children are sinners in need of God’s grace?
It is further taught that since the Fall of Adam all men who are naturally born are conceived and born in sin, i.e., that they all, from their mother’s womb, are full of evil desire and inclination, and can have by nature no true fear of God, no true faith in God. This passage testifies that we deny to those propagated according to carnal nature not
only the acts, but also the power or gifts of producing fear and trust in God. (AAC 2:2-3)
As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one.” (Romans 3:10) For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned. (Romans 5:12)
All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. (Ephesians 2:3)
Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (Psalm 55:5)
Can infants have faith to receive the gifts offered in Baptism?
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matthew 18:1-6, italics for emphasis)
From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. (Psalm 8:2)
The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant. “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, ” ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?” (Matthew 21:14-16)
Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God. (Psalm 22:9-10)
We bring the child in the conviction and hope that it believes, and we pray that God may grant it faith; but we do not baptize it upon that, but solely upon the command of God. (LC 4:57)
Are there any other scriptural indications that infants should be baptized?
– New Testament Baptism corresponds to Old Testament circumcision
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:9-15)
– Entire houses were baptized, so it is likely that infants were baptized in these incidents.
On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us. (Acts 16:13-15, italics added for emphasis)
The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family. (Acts 16:29-34, italics added for emphasis)
Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) (1 Corinthians 1:13-16, italics added for emphasis)
– Jesus urges infants to be brought to him. We need to receive the kingdom of God like a little child.
People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:15-17)
Is there any visible confirmation that God approves of baptizing infants?
That the Baptism of infants is pleasing to Christ is sufficiently proved from His own work, namely, that God sanctifies many of them who have been thus baptized, and has given them the Holy Ghost; and that there are yet many even to-day in whom we perceive that they have the Holy Ghost both because of their doctrine and life; as it is also given to us by the grace of God that we can explain the Scriptures and come to the knowledge of Christ, which is impossible without the Holy Ghost. But if God did not accept the baptism of infants, He would not give the Holy Ghost nor any of His gifts to any of them; in short, during this long time unto this day no man upon earth could have been a Christian. Now, since God confirms Baptism by the gifts of His Holy Ghost, as is plainly perceptible in some of the church fathers, as St. Bernard, Gerson, John Hus, and others, who were baptized in infancy, and since the holy Christian Church cannot perish until the end of the world, they must acknowledge that such infant baptism is pleasing to God. For He can never be opposed to Himself, or support falsehood and wickedness, or for its promotion impart His grace and Spirit.This is indeed the best and strongest proof for the simple-minded and unlearned. For they shall not take from us or overthrow this article: I believe a holy Christian Church, the communion of saints. (LC 4:49-51)
- Baptism is a sacrament that is the Word of God is brought to water.
- Baptism is a means of grace that is the Holy Spirit works faith through Baptism.
- Baptism was instituted and commanded by Jesus.
- Baptism is not our work, but it is God’s work in bringing us into a right relationship with Him.
- Baptism rescues us from sin, death, and the devil.
- These benefits of Baptism are received through faith, which is not our work but a gift from God.
- Our faith does not validate Baptism, but solely receives it.
- Loss of faith or the lack of faith at the time of receiving Baptism does not warrant a second baptism. Baptism is always valid on account of God’s Word and not our faith.
- Infants are a part of the command: “Baptize all nations”.
- Infants are sinners and in need of the grace offered through Baptism.
- Infants can have true faith in order to receive the benefits of Baptism.
- Baptism’s correspondence with circumcision, the baptizing of entire households, and Jesus’ urging for the little children to be brought to Him are also scriptural supports for baptizing infants.
- God confirms his approval of infant Baptism by granting many of them the Holy Spirit and faith.
This essay in no way is meant to discredit or disagree with anything from the article, “Top Ten Reasons Why We Use The Liturgy.” This essay operates with a different definition of liturgy, which is defined as the thesis of the essay, and the linked essay on why we use the liturgy defines its use of the word liturgy from the outset as well.
A recent Systematics quiz asked the question, “According to the Lutheran Confessions who is the Church?” The leading answer by many students was “where the Gospel and the Sacraments are rightly preached.” The professor quickly blurted out, “That’s great. That tells us how we can locate where the Church is, but what is the answer to who the church is?” The “who” answer is all true believers. That is who the Church is. In response to Rome’s insistence that only the Roman Catholic Church is the true Church, the Book of Concord places repeated emphasis on how the Church is visibly recognized by the right proclamation of the Gospel and the right distribution of the Sacraments, in an effort to assert that the Lutheran churches were most certainly part of the una sancta, while drawing into question the validity of Rome’s claim to the Church catholic. This Reformation Movement emphasis has led to a predominant association of the Church with the gathered body of believers on Sunday – thus Church is viewed as a place that Christians go and not as individual people in missional movement in their daily vocations united as one through the same shared faith in Christ.
In many LC-MS congregations, Sunday services use one of the Divine Service orders in one of the LC-MS hymnals. These orders are commonly referred to as the historical liturgy of the Church. Orders of rituals and ceremonies used for Sunday services in Lutheran congregations that do not explicitly follow one of the Divine Service orders are typically referred to as being non-liturgical, or perhaps called contemporary. This suggests that the historical liturgy (the Divine Service) has been jettisoned in such congregations, replaced by something new, and potentially entirely different or wholly disconnected from the Divine Service, which can imply a withdrawal from the Church. Liturgy, in an etymological sense, refers to public service, which certainly does occur on Sundays. The church’s public service, however, is not just limited to a particular place and time on Sunday morning. The Church is, after all, all true believers, each a priest in the Kingdom of God, gifted by the Holy Spirit with a particular gift and role in the Church for the edification of all in the local Church community.
Much of these giftings of the Spirit and Spirit-given roles within the Church are not actively involved or provided the opportunity to serving the Body of Christ within the Divine Service orders. This necessitates a broadening of the common usage of the word liturgy within Lutheran circles that would embrace both the “who” and the “where” of the Church from the Book of Concord. The following is my proposed use of liturgy for rectifying this disconnect between Sunday services (and in particular the concept that the Divine Service is the only liturgy of the Church) and the rest of the Christian’s life as the Church: liturgy in a Lutheran congregation should be understood as the performance of the Christian faith, both corporately at gathered services on Sunday mornings, as well as individually throughout the week, for the purpose of making and sustaining disciples within the Christian faith that is being performed.
Jim Marriot defines liturgy concisely as “the performance of faith.” The “performance” aspect of this definition of liturgy can be best understood by the formal sense of the definition of rituals. Mark Searle describes the aim of formal definitions for rituals as seeking to “differentiate ritual activity from other forms of behavior in terms of its distinctive features, usually identified as repetitive, prescribed, rigid, stereotyped, and so on.” As an example of a formal approach to rituals, Searle points to Roy Rappaport’s definition of ritual, which is “the performance of more or less invariant sequences of formal acts and utterances not encoded by the performers.” Rappaport’s definition implies that the Church’s rituals have been given to us and we perform them, but with his use of coding language, there is also the implication that these rituals are doing us. The rituals of the Church are informing us and molding us into the people God wants us to be. To this end, liturgy as a set of performed rituals of the Christian faith also function symbolically to provide meaning to our lives by teaching us, or informing us, of the Christian faith that accounts for all things. With that knowledge we can become the people God wants us to be as we live out the Christian liturgy.
The liturgy of the Church is not just relegated to Sunday morning. There is an interplay between corporate and individual ritual performances of the Christian faith. In the corporate sense of liturgy, James K. A. Smith describes the church as “the place where God invites us to renew our loves, reorient our desires, and restrain our appetites.” This work in our lives comes through the visible markers of the Church as identified in the Lutheran Confessions, the right proclamation of God’s Word and the right distribution of the Sacraments It is the function of the Word and the Sacraments that lead Smith to refer to the Church as a “household […] where the Spirit feeds us what we need and where, by his grace, we become a people who desire him above all else.” But we are not to stay in that “household,” the Church forever, because the Church is not a place, or the gathering of Christians. No, the Church is the people of God. Smith explains that the liturgy of the corporately gathered Church functions, continuing with the food analogy, as “the feast where we acquire new hungers – for God and for what God desires – and are then sent into this creation to act accordingly.”
As an example of how the corporate ritual performances of the Church form and shape our individual performances of the Christian faith in our day to day vocations, Smith points to the historic prayer of confession (that the LC-MS uses in some of its Divine Service orders):
Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.
Smith says that this prayer was written poetically, so that when it is said as a whole congregation, verbally, week in and week out, it becomes like a song, and the poetry of this corporate ritual “makes it stick and enables it to seep down into the deep wells of our imagination – which means it is also latent there, ready to rise to our lips throughout the week.” When this confession is given corporately, the absolution of sins is immediately pronounced by the pastor. This sticks with us too, and it forms us in the week to live in a state of daily repentance, contrition for sins and turning to Christ for the forgiveness of those sins. The corporate ritual of confession/absolution should also drive us to be a people who forgive those who sin against us. In our individual ritual performances, Monday thru Saturday, this corporate performance works to form us into people who have the Gospel upon our lips in proclamation to our neighbor, in the humble position of one beggar in need of God’s grace to another.
The purpose of this liturgy, the performance of the Christian faith, both corporately at gathered services on Sunday mornings, as well as individually throughout the week, is to both create and sustain the Christian faith that is being performed. In short, faith in Christ is central to everything the Christian does in Christian liturgy. Earlier it was stated that Rappaport’s definition of rituals implies that the Church’s rituals have been given to us and we perform them, but yet the rituals of the Church are not encoded by the one’s performing them. This gives the implication that these rituals are doing us; we’re not doing them. A similar interexchange can be spoken of with faith. Faith is not something that Christians create, or encode in themselves. Faith is given to Christians, but yet Christians in response to the gift of faith hardwired into them perform that faith when gathered together in worship on Sundays. The faith is always present in the Christian and is not dormant the rest of the week either; faith is performed daily in the life of the Christian. The Christian worships God every day in performances of faith, which are a demonstration of the faith within the believer. Such performances are ever as much an act of worship as what occurs in a church service on Sunday. Thomas Winger details this dual-role of liturgy to both create and sustain faith as the “rhythm of worship”:
“God generates and nurtures faith with his Word-and-Sacrament giving, enlivening faith so that it rises up to meet the Giver with its thanks and praise, and overflows the gifts towards the neighbor. Faith is worship because worship is reception. This means that true worship occurs whenever God’s gifts are received according to Christ’s mandate and institution.”
Recognizing that all of the Christian life is one of faith being expressed through the performance of rituals, it is best for members of the LC-MS, in particular pastors in their positions of teaching office in the churches, to not refer to the order of Sunday services as being either liturgical or not-liturgical. To make such a dichotomy is to not recognize that all of the Christian life is liturgy, a performance of the faith. A church service that does not adhere to the order of the Divine Service is still a liturgy! It is best for the LC-MS to discern better performances of the faith from worser performances of the faith, and to be humble enough to admit that in particular contexts an order of worship that does not contain any, or most of the specific words and order of the Divine Service, could be a better performance of the faith than a service that adheres to every single jot and tittle of the Divine Service order. This is why better and worse performances of the faith need to take into account the context of the community of believers and the role of inculturation in the performance of the faith in each particular church setting. This is a discussion that warrants more words than what fits into the limitations of this essay, and which might distract from the main goal of this paper’s thesis to create a harmony between “the who of the Church” (individual priests with liturgies throughout the week) and “the where of the Church” (corporate gatherings where the Gospel is rightly preached and the Sacraments rightly distributed).
In closing, to drive home the point of this essay, liturgy is not just a Sunday order of ritualistic repetition. We don’t lock God up in his golden cage in the sanctuary of our church buildings to take him out and wind him up each Sunday morning. We don’t leave our faith at the doorsteps of the church building when we exit on Sunday morning to race off to eat lunch and/or watch sports. It is time that our use of the words, liturgy, worship, and rituals, accurately represent our performance of the faith the whole-week long.
 Jim Marriot, “Liturgy and Discipleship: How the World is Done,” Self-published (n.d.): 3.
 Mark Searle, “Ritual,” in The Study of Liturgy: Revised Edition, eds. Cheslyn Jones, Geoffrey Wainwright, Edward Yarnold SJ, and Paul Bradshaw (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 54.
 Searle, “Ritual,” in The Study of Liturgy, 54.
 Searle, “Ritual,” in The Study of Liturgy, 55.
 James K.A. Smith, You Are What You Love. (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2016), 65.
 Smith, You Are What You Love, 65.
 Smith, You Are What You Love, 65.
 Smith, You Are What You Love, 109-110.
 Thomas Winger, “Theology of Worship” (unpublished essay for the Lutheran Service Book, Desk Edition), 3.
 Jethro Tull, “My God” and “Wind-up,” tracks 1 and 5 of side B on Aqualung, Reprise Records, 1971, vinyl.
Dreyfus and Kelly (D&K) connect their book, All Things Shining, with Melville’s book, Moby Dick. Right underneath the title on the cover is a little image of a whale and Moby Dick is referenced throughout the book and they devote a full chapter to Melville’s whale tale right before the concluding chapter. In All Things Shining, D&K lament that today’s secular age is remise of sacredness – missing all the shining things of a sacred world. Their claim is that the lives of Homer’s Greeks and the Christians of Dante’s time lived lives rife with meaning in a bright and shining world – unlike our world today, which is an abyss of dark nothingness (nihilism). Melville has shown D&K the way back into the bright lights of yore through Moby Dick, the book that Melville recognized to be a “wicked book,” but one that left him feeling as spotless as a lamb after having written it. (143) The “evil art” of Melville is rather obscure in his writing, and he might not have even consciously known what the wickedness was that he had written, and even D&K who seem to know exactly what the hidden evil of Moby Dick is struggle to clearly name it as they sift the lives and motives of the characters on the “hunt for the mighty sperm whale.” The way forward as discovered by Ishmael in Moby Dick is to find your own polytheistic truths and live in them in joy and in sorrow. (188) Though D&K try to hide their malevolence in lengthy, rambling, quote-filled chapters, they directly call for an all-embracing dive into an old-school life of polytheism within our modern, technologically driven age. They give this invitation void of any moral compass besides one’s own passions and subjective standard of morality. I sense that what D&K have written is far more wicked than what Melville wrote because they directly call us to surrender ourselves to the gods – to be carried away (whooshed up) by them to wherever they want to carry us before the drop that will inevitably come as the sacred wave crashes. (220)
This “whooshing up,” D&K say, is when “[t]he most important things, the most real things in Homer’s world, well up and take us over, hold us for a while, and then finally, let us go” (200). The name for this in Homeric times was the word physis which “was the name for the way the most real things in the world present themselves to us” (200). D&K consider this whooshing up to be the sacred breaking into our world and shining for all to see and they explain that “[w]hen something whooshes up it focuses and organizes everything around it…” so that “everyone understands who they are and what they are to do immediately in relation to the sacred event that is occurring” (201). Of course, the best that they can come up with as an example in our modern age is sporting events, when some player does something unimaginable during play… I guess I’ve just never been whooshed up when watching others play sports. I have had such wooshing experiences at live rock shows in small clubs (when a crowd wide mosh pit erupts in unison or everyone’s face melts at a guitar solo that must be from the rock gods on high – though I’ve never had this moment at an arena or large festival show though – only small, shoulder to shoulder club shows, so I can kind of get what D&K are talking about in terms of responding in a way without thought to the physis overtaking the bystanders).
D&K’s focus seems to be on the wooshing that takes over a group of people as one individual in their midst is wooshed up by the gods. They do not entertain the individual being struck by the sacred in a moment of isolation in nature (maybe floating in the middle of lake under the star lit sky) or while reading a book or watching a movie alone or laying on the floor listening to an album start to finish with headphones on and eyes closed – these are the times that I am overcome the most by a force outside myself that I could recognize to be sacred. I don’t quite understand why their focus is on all things shining in crowds – apart from sports giving people a communal meaning their main wooshing up example was Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech on the National Mall.
This group response is where their evil really lies… because they have no absolute and objective standard of morality in their polytheistic endeavor. D&K admit that there can be madness in the crowds, but they say we must be courageous and leap in to experience this polytheistic path. (220) They understand that things can get turnt “in new and more shining and meaningful ways” or maybe… “Sometimes, by contrast, one dances with the devil” (220). Because we’re just getting wooshed up (overtaken by a force of the gods) in their paradigm of finding meaning, they explain that it is “[o]nly by having been taken over by the fanatical leader’s totalizing rhetoric, and [after having] experienced the dangerous and devastating consequences it has, does one learn to discriminate between leaders worth following and those upon whom one must turn one’s back” (220).
That final statement is brutally wicked. Was Germany whooshed up by Hitler? Um… Yeah. But what if Germany had won the war? Would Hitler then have been “the devil” when we know that the victor writes the history books? Were many whooshed up into a violent frenzy during the multi-day LA Race Riots? Um… Yeah. Was the violence, arson, and looting justified? Who gets to decide and why? Were many whooshed up when they followed Jim Jones into his Kool-Aid suicide massacre? Um… Yeah, and many realized they danced with the devil, but the doors were blocked by gunmen and it was too late to find a different partner to woosh them up into a new and shining dance. Was Ishmael and the others whooshed up by Captain Ahab’s fanaticism to kill the beast? Um… Yeah, but only Ishmael survived the whoosh!
The people who got whooshed in the examples I just provided were people who, according to D&K, hadn’t yet “acquired the skill” to let themselves “be overwhelmed” by the gods yet possess the “discrimination” to keep themselves from getting “drawn in by the rhetoric of the fanatical and dangerous demagogue” (221). But remember, there is no way to “acquire this skill” until one has already “been taken over by the fanatical leader’s totalizing rhetoric, and experienced the dangerous and devastating consequence’s it has” (220). An “evil art” indeed.
What D&K are selling is still essentially nihilism, which is what they are trying avoid, since they recognize nihilism fails to provide meaning in life. They don’t et that their pitch is still nihilism.
By what standard is one to know if he is dancing with the devil or with the gods? These whooshing forces were never all good in the Greek pantheon of the gods. And since D&K aren’t really asking us to accept the Greek gods as being real, again I’ll ask the question but in a slightly different way, by what standard are we to judge what is good and what is evil? The standard is one’s own opinion. We can pick and choose what we follow.. In the end, this is still nihilism, a nihilism that has each man be his own god… because it’s truly each individual person who gets to say what whoosh is right and what whoosh is wrong, or if there is even a whoosh to be had at all.
What happens when there are two whooshing parties who come into direct contradiction with one another in terms of who they are and what they are to do and they each consider the other party to be whooshed by the devil? Well here, we just landed back at what D&K want to avoid, sitting in the contemporary world with “no ground for choosing one course of action over any other” (15). They offer that there are many gods that can whoosh us up and let us see the shiny good things as they really are, but we’re the final judges of what is shining or not. Since we’re still the judges of what is right and wrong and what is sacred and shining in the D&K model of finding meaning in life, they’re still dealing the Nietzsche pill of being free to do what we whilt, which I prefer to label as Anton LaVey chose to name it – Satanism. And in this label, we get the grandest understanding of how evil D&K’s book is – All Things Shining – because as Christians we know that Satan dances among us as an angel of light. (2 Corinthians 11:14)
Satan deceives through telling lies, but his lies are tricky to recognize, because they’re steeped in truth. In other words, his lies come to us in partial truths. It is in this sense that I do try to approach all things as shining. Every worldview and every culture and every religion and every zeitgeist has some elements of truth within them – I’m rather certain of this. Christians would do good to point these truths out from time to time. Since Christ’s claim is true that he is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), then all truth is God’s truth, no matter where it is found. Where truth is found, declare it, use it, put it in its full context of which it is fully and directly revealed from God in the Bible. The Apostle Paul did this when he quoted the philosophers of the Athenians (Acts 17). We can do this too, but we must realize that when we seek the shiny things in life in this manner, we must always cling to the truth of Christ so that we are not deceived into the lie that all is one, and one is all, and that all that glitters is gold.
The nuggets of truth that I am referring to that permeate all of the world are reflections of the Creator within his Creation. In the Christian account of everything the world is now fallen from its very good original state at creation, but that does not mean that all is now evil within it… there is much that is good and much to be enjoyed and praised and thankful for within God’s world. Through man’s natural knowledge that there is a God, known from what he has created, from God’s law written on the hearts of all men, and from God’s love for all of his creation in which he showers both the righteous and the wicked with good gifts in this temporal realm, the sacred things of beauty and truth bubble up all around us. It is in this sense that I highly appreciate D&K’s call for us all to develop the “skills for responding to the manifold senses of the sacred that still linger unappreciated at the margins of our disenchanted world” (222). It is here in the margins that I have seen people tend to embrace and enjoy the full freedom of being who they want to be, being their own god creating their own little kingdoms, and with their creative juices unstifled by the restrictions and conformity of society they really do shine and stand out among the herd, and people are drawn to such whooshed up individuals and they find their identity and meaning in such communities. From my Christian perspective, they are letting the image of God that they bare (as broken as it may be) shine as they show off their creative abilities and flair, as they reflect their Creator that they may not personally know in the slightest.
In this way, all things are shining for a time. Apart from God, however, there is no light – only darkness. And God’s patience is running out.
 All parenthetical numbers are references to the page numbers within All Things Shining by Dreyfus and Kelly that was published in 2011 by Free Press.
 A line I stole from the epic song, “Nantucket Sleighride” by Mountain.
 Slang for “get really wasted and have a ton of fun” according to Urban Dictionary, but I’ve heard it used by many in Gen Z to refer to something very akin to getting whooshed up in a communal sense (and it sounds so much more lit to get turnt than to get whooshed).
 “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin lyric reference.